DAY 149: US Bombs Hospitals

October 24th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Doctors get killed (part 1): MSF

Weighing in on this story rather late: If you remember, at 2.10 am on Saturday October 3rd, American AC-130 planes bombed the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan over a » Read the rest of this entry «

DAY 148: Get Lost

October 8th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

More dead,

particularly teenagers, in the West bank, in the last week; the latest being 13-year-old Abed Obeidallah from al Aida camp, shot ‘by accident’ on Monday;Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 22.19.26 and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society has declared a ‘level three state of emergency’. So, are we facing the beginning of a new Intifada? There are arguments for, but maybe stronger ones against. For an analysis see the link to Naomi Dann’s piece. For some views from the street:

“I want an Intifada, but there is is no political program to obtain freedom,” Ward Adawi, 22, an emergency medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, said after treating a Palestinian teen who was injured by a concussion grenade fired by the Israeli army.

“I don’t want demonstrations. I want an agreement with Israel,” said Rafah Alam, 18, as he sold coffee from a yellow kiosk stationed in the main street that runs between Qalandia and Ramallah. For Alam, it was unclear if the “day of rage” and a week of clashes between Palestinians protesters and the Israeli military—with settlers targeting Palestinians with flaming tires and rocks—would usher in another uprising, although he hoped it would not.

“The people here are very tired. They don’t trust our government at all– [or] the Israeli government,” said Walid Bayrat, 30, a sportswear store owner in Qalandia refugee camp during the clashes. “We don’t want to fight Israel, we are civilians, all the people you see here are civilians,” he said, motioning at the crowd of elementary aged children that comprised most of the protesters.

The battlefront:

Which means that your correspondent has, as he always wanted, got involved in full-time mindless political activism, the field being naturally currently the ‘No Borders’ struggle, and the attempt to get the inhabitants on the Calais ‘Jungle’ (see previous posts) into somewhere decent, and into the UK if at all possible. I remember what full-on political engagement supporters1_3464733b

At Jeremy Corbyn’s overflow meeting at the Tory party conference

was like in the seventies, but the terms seem to have changed. In the early 21st century you spend your time wandering round  watching your phone like a hopeless teenager and messaging half a dozen friends every ten seconds; but while the teenager will be sending vacuous messages about his/her feelings, you and your friends will be commenting about how to phrase the latest rewrite of a position statement, each typing faster than the other can read. How it takes one all back! How much space for misunderstandings, arguments, sulks, apologies, emoticons – life suddenly becomes much richer, never mind politics.

In the concert hall

If you caught Jane Sheldon and Zubin Kanga (soprano and piano) at City U on Tuesday, congratulations. I’ve been at more sparsely attended events (I remember eight people in a church, see earlier); in fact this drew about fifty which, given the poor advertising and the difficulty of finding the venue (St John St and the dreadful 153 bus) in the rain, was pretty good. The sensational Ms Sheldon N+S_headshot-885x500began with a beautiful rendering of Schoenberg’s ‘Das Buch der hängenden Garten’ – much better than what’s out there on Youtube in my opinion; and followed it with Helmut Lachenmann’s ‘fiendish’ (The Guardian) work ‘Got Lost’, which makes the Schoenberg sound like Beethoven. Sheldon produced an amazing variety of clicks, throat noises, fioriture (no, I don’t know what they are, I just bet there were some) and near-spits.  It was pure magic, I can’t wait for the DVD. Meanwhile, here are Elizabeth Keusch and Stephen Drury performing the work, a somewhat superior musical offering than what I usually come up with.


It’s nearly October 10th, which is the birthday of Ken Saro-Wiwa, environmental activist;


who was executed twenty years ago at the instigation of the Shell company, in November 1995.  Here is his poem ‘The True Prison’:

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell
It is not the clank of the key
As the warden locks you in
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for beast or man
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not

It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for a generation
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing into her book
A punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral decrepitude
The mental ineptitude
The meat of dictators
Cowardice masking as obedience
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
That we dare not wash
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison

DAY 147: October 3rd

October 4th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Or any day you like, for that matter; it’s marked by people drowning, people being electrocuted on the Eurotunnel…

And of course, by ordinary starvation and death. On October 3rd 2013, just two years ago, a boat carrying refugees from Misrata in Libya to Lampedusa sank with over 360 drowneddead. Later in October, the Mare Nostrum initiative was set up to prevent such tragedies. But the EU counties, the UK in particular, were unwilling to fund it and it folded a year later.
Which brings us to now. On last September 2nd, Alan Kurdi kurdiwas washed up on the beach at Bodrum, and Nilüfer Demir’s photograph of his body had (apparently) a sensational effect on the public, and on the media, awakening a dormant impulse to sympathize – although Demir had “been covering the refugee crisis for months, if not years, and had photographed many dead migrants”.
Also on September 2nd – coincidences! – Ros Ereira (an east London cinematographer and activist), in view of the approaching EU summit, ‘assumed that there would be a demonstration in London that I could take part in, showing a message of support for refugees ahead of that meeting. But when I couldn’t find any kind of march planned, I decided to try to stage something myself. against borders on facebook. I assumed  that it might result in half a dozen friends joining me to wave placards in the rain’ Actually, more like 100,000 turned up. Between the 2nd and the 15th, a powerful movement was buildng up involving witnessing, aid, solidarity. In fact, the movement had started before, as some of us know. The organizations opposing detention and deportation, such as ‘Right to Remain’, have been there for a long time; and the visits of aid to the growing human disaster area which is the 4452Jungle at Calais were growing though July and August – but the 2nd September seems to mark a symbolic ‘tipping point’ in the movement against Fortress Europe. [Although Angela Merkel’s volte-face came earlier.]
Something has changed – but what, and for how long? And why, just now? And most importantly, what can we do?

Of course it took three weeks for the official condemnation of the Franco-British régime at Calais by the UN’s Peter Sutherland to arrive – but when it came (on September 27th), it was damning: “I was horrified by the place. It is absolutely shocking, and while the primary responsibility is held by the French because it is in France, there should be a shared responsibility,” Sutherland said. “You would think both governments would work together to solve this – after all, it is only 3,000 people, it should not be above redemption.”

It may be the time to ask (you probably have) whether one completely unexpected change is that on September 15th the Labour Party elected a leader who was apparently (i) honest and (ii) opposed to all the tenets of current political neoliberal dogma, from ‘balancing the budgets’ down. Have humanity and compassion become what Gramsci (remember him? gramsciYou must be almost as old as I am) would have called hegemonic? If you listen to  Corbyn’s speech to the Labour Party conference, there are two obvious points: the intention to launch a new politics; and the emphasis on honesty generosity and fairness as the distinguishing marks of Labour’s plan. It might work, and its various opposites seem to have failed.

This blog seems not to be making much progress at politico/historical speculation – although a student of the media could ask an interesting question about the role of the ‘woman behind the camera’ in these various stories, from Nilüfer Demir on. But I’d rather move on to my stirring revolutionary song to the tune of ‘My Favorite Things’. I wish  I could say I’d been challenged to do it, but no – I mentioned the idea in an idle moment, and the next thing I knew I was churning out the verses:

Bankers and bailiffs and sharp city lawyers
Smooth mortgage brokers and hard faced employers
Cops who will beat you and trample your rights
These are a few of the things we must fight;

Racists and sexists and ists of all orders
Guards in the prisons and guards of the borders
People who’ll keep you down if you’re not white
These are a few of the things we must fight;

On the marches, in the meetings,
When the speech goes on too long
I think of the things we must fight
And it makes me sing this song –

Firms who sell drones and the pilots who fly them
But above all the top brass who employ them
Goods for the rich with the poor in the shite
These are a few of the things we must fight.

Scots an’ a’ that

It occurred to me in the middle of a sleepless night that we might at some time in the future be facing the prospect of following courses in ‘Teaching Scots as a Foreign Language’ – if it isnae one already. We could, without ony difficulty, set passages from Irvine Welsh or James Kelman for translation or comprehension by speakers of SE; but what seems more of a challenge is to construct a phrasebook for the student who wishes to use Scots as a spoken language as he or she tours the bars of Edinburgh of Glasgow, trying to avoid shards of flying glass. Luckily, I have a guide in the shape of Michaela Zikmundova’s Ph.D thesis on ‘The Language of Trainspotting’ (Masaryk U., 2o14. Why am I stuck with the Czechs again?), and her analysis of passages such as:

Begbie – No fuckin shy, they British Rail cunts, eh?

Canadian – Pardon?

Begbie – Whair’s it yis come fae then?

Which should enable one to move between the two languages without extreme bodily harm.


On a different note, to show I can still appreciate the latest precious school-of-Joni-Mitchell folk rock, here is ‘Feel You’, a pretty recent pressing by L.A.s Julia Holter.


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