DAY 176: Sick

June 30th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

After all that…

First, I have undoubtedly picked up some unidentified retrovirus,Screen shot 2016-06-30 at 19.14.51 which has led to my feeling completely atrocious in the last few days (cough, cold, you name it…). I can’t tell tou how terrible this feeling is, and how much it dwarfs all your petty concerns about Europe, football, football in Europe, etc. I overcame my natural urge to carry on as normal, being urged by many of my friends and family to take my battered body to the A and E – since the GPs clearly weren’t interested in it, or rather suggested that I come back in a fortnight when my symptoms might have matured. I must tell you, supposing you to be interested – but why should you be ? that the depth of my misery or malaise, is worse than anything I might have wished on the leaders of the Tory Party, the Labour Party, or any faction currently contending for their leadership.

This I did. I have good news for you; if you’re 77 years old and in a dodgy condition, a visit to A and E is much quicker than it used to be. I’m not saying that it’s quick but you do keep getting wheeled around from one focus of medical attention to another, which passes the time; and you’re subjected to tests (I counted four bloodtests) and generally given the feeling that someone is interested, and some results still register somewhere. There was it’s true, a shortage of  questions on the lines of ‘how do you feel’? (like death) as compared with ‘how is your breathing?’ (fairly regular); and the outcome was, as so often with medical examinations, a bit limited. I did have a chest infection (not a surprise) which could be treated – hopefully – by antibiotics. amoxicAmoxicillin

Also, a cold, which was a virus and couldn’t be treated by anything except going to bed and being miserable.

The balance-sheet of my hospital visit, then, doesn’t get me where I wanted; not only in terms of achieving rude good health, but even in terms of settling my accounts with the minions of the NHS. I end up feeling sad, sorry, sick, and surrounded by lunatics who wish to destroy a) the Labour Party, b) the Tory Party (not that I care) c) the NHS d) what’s left of our civil liberties. I might as well have succumbed to a retrovirus. I’m still trying as are all my friends, to make some sense out of this ridiculous post-Brexit chaos. Some of my friends, those who wish me well, are trying to visit me and bring me some comfort.

Bur in this holy month of Ramadan, what the hell am I doing still being focussed on my own griefs and miseries, rather than finding others more miserable and  giving the little personal zakat I have – which at the moment  isn’t much – to them?

Even so, we have to admit that a high quality of political argument  has been generate by all this debate. Did you know about the mechanism for triggering Article 50? How much there is in the universe that’s still to learn! David Cameron, of course, has quit without invoking British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2ndGordon Brown signs the Treaty of Lisbon, which of course includes article 50.

Article 50; and now Boris Johnson, a frontrunner for Cameron’s job, has said he would not evoke Article 50 “in haste.” Pro-Brexit campaigner Justice Secretary Michael Gove also said prior to the referendum that Britain wouldn’t want to invoke Article 50 for at least two years, because they would need to see what sort of deal was on the cards before entering official talks.

However, the EU is singing a different tune, urging Britain to act on the public’s decision quickly. You and I probably want to know how easy it is to invoke article 50; I see it as something you can do on the back of an envelope. If, on the other hand, it requires the unanimous consent of all the EU nations, forget it. I expect that may be the case.

Meanwhile, stuff is going on in Calais, of a less rarefied kind; with some unpleasant implications; and it belongs to a different level of reality reports the always watchful Chiara Lauvergnac; as usual taking the time to think about what’s happened, its background, and its implications::

Note on recent attacks of volunteers by migrants in the ‘jungle’

Two attacks of people sleeping alone in vans, one the other night, In both cases, the vans were broken in at night time, and the volunteers threatened with a knife by groups of men who stole everything, their money, their phone and everything valuable. Do NOT sleep in or near the jungle alone, or if you do park well in sight and near your friends who can help you if anything happens!
Clare Mosely, head of Care4Calais, was attacked yesterday by an Afghan who shouted that they do not want the English in the jungle. She was worried about the security of all her volunteers. I am very sorry this is happening and I maintain that people could not survive here without the help from the English and international volunteers .
Random attacks by crazy people are quite common, what is worrying is when the communities don’t stop them as the only effective protection we have in the jungle is from the migrant communities. My pulse is that the English volunteers are utterly unpopular at the moment with the Afghan community, as they are perceived to be helping only the Africans and neglecting the Afghans, at least this is what every Afghan says. They are also saying they do not need any help, they need freedom and human rights. It is very important to be perceived to be fair, which may involve spending more time talking to people of all communities rather than having English people talking to other English people, as is their national habit, and then going to the jungle believing that they know what they are doing, while the refugees are neglected, except as recipients of humanitarian aid. It is quite possibly the criticism I hear more often from the people who live in the jungle: that all these visitors hardly talk or spend any time with them – ‘Are they here for us, or for what?’ they bitterly complain. Of course, there are exceptions, and some volunteers are very popular and well liked but many volunteers only go there to work and rush out the camp when they have finished or talk to very few refugees they are friends with, which again is perceived as unfair and creating privileges. Relying on the so-called community leaders is not that useful because they are very nice guys but they do not really represent anybody, as there are not assemblies or any process that would delegate them to lead or represent others, and most people in the camp do not even know that there are community leaders.
The overcrowding after the destruction of the Southside is severe, The sense of rage and frustration is great since people are banging against the wall, every day and every night they go to try and they come back, police are beating them up with truncheons and spraying gas in their faces, including women and children, they threw hundreds of gas grenades in the camp: Monday the 20th there were two big traffic jams and it was a massacre, with dozens of people injured by gas grenades and rubber bullets fired directly at them and also in the camp, and at volunteers who went near the motorway to try help – one volunteer was hit on the shoulder and two were arrested; Saturday the last, in the evening, there were lots of people running from the jungle to the motorway, without much reason as there were hardly any vehicles: the police started throwing grenades and the camp became so full of CS gas I had to leave the North side and go near the motorway entrance, as the wind was blowing northwards and all the Northside was full of gas, past the Ashram kitchen. People are kind of trapped in that fucking place that is not even a jungle, jungles are really autonomous spaces in places chosen and squatted by the people, not chosen by the government and pitched against fences that stretch for miles; it is not even a ghetto, ghettos are images imagesin the city, it is worst, it is like an half-finished concentration camp and living conditions are appalling despite so much good effort from volunteers. I often feel like crying for hours on end, for the anger and frustration and the sense of being trapped, imagine how they must feel that unlike me they have nowhere to go to if they want to leave the jungle. It is a known fact that frustration generates aggressivity, and tensions are running high at the moment, lots of small fights yesterday. Most people are good but there is too much pressure.
Women and especially young women working or visiting the camp have a specific problem as they are submerged by requests for special favors by random men, who then do not understand why the girls run from them, they are sincerely persuaded they are God’s gift but there is one man every two meters asking for something. I have been working in the Calais jungles since Sept 2009, and to be honest I never had so many problems with sexism, it has gone a bit crazy. Usually, I just tell them to fuck off, in not so many terms. Then maybe not everybody has the confidence, or they have been told they have to smile and be nice all the time. But you have to be very firm, even without using bad language. Beware of sexual attacks as they are very Screen shot 2016-06-30 at 22.35.42common especially at night. But it is not all about sex, most men had to leave their families behind and have ‘no mother, no sister’. To be honest, I would not like to be in that jungle for 5 minutes, it is only that there are so many people trapped there including so many women and children. And so many people I like and I am friends with. I always knew this was going to happen, since the people were forced to move in that wilderness, I never knew there would be so many people trapped there and subjected to so much violence by police. Then, of course, most time people make an effort to make themselves happy and laugh and joke and are really funny and drink tea with their friends and talk and eat fabulous food at home or in the various restaurants. But they are not really happy, they miss their families and children and they are worried about them surviving in war zones and in danger and/ or starving and they cannot help them until they go to England, or somewhere they can work. Least the ones who no longer have a family because their families have been killed. I really cannot comprehend their endurance, some people have been wandering in Europe for years without finding a place they can make a life, I just admire their courage and fortitude, hope they can blossom into full rebellion against the establishment and the injustice.

In some sense, I have a belief that it’s not  so much the macro-structures of the EU such as Article 50, as the facts on the ground, the policing, the daily suffering of the people of the camps, which describe ‘Europe’ as we currently live it. In which case, God help us!

Here, by Got Guanxi, is ‘Ten tears’:


And here’s the evocative ‘Lights On



DAY 175: La lutte continue!!

June 26th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Oh God, I thought, that bloody referendum result. I’m supposed to have an opinion on it, when all my friends have already had endless opinions in less than twenty-four hours – and posted them, and liked them, and commented on them, and commented on the comments. I’ve been to ‘remain’ events, and to ‘after it, what now?’ marches, and rallies, again all in an amazingly short space of time. The nicest one, which I bet you missed, was the London2Calais gig run by Freer Ideas at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Kentish Town; this was on the actual night of the referendum and while advertised as electro-punk13438956_10201574491761765_217113596314999774_n (and gender anarchist in case you were in doubt), was wildly eclectic and would have been a distinguished line-up at, say, King’s Place or the Barbican. The one I failed to make was this afternoon’s queer 13001181_10201619093834954_4549887524166533683_npicnic (I was delivering a guitar to a Syrian in Birmingham, but that’s another story).

Luckily, a few moments’ thought convinced me that I didn’t need to provide any opinions, thoughts, etc of my own since as I’ve said since dawn broke on Friday my friends have been clogging the pages of Facebook with laments, threnodies, and the like inspired by the result; and all I need to do is the usual select, control-C, control-V to include them in this offering.

Holly Blossom Mullinger on Britishness: 1527070_10152051310979720_532570993_n‘so a lot of statuses on here are about how it’s a good thing for Britain to “take back control,” I wanna respond by asking since when was it so important to have so much power? We have seen Britain at its worst dating back to thatcher and before and now I’m afraid it’s about to get a lot worse. For those of you happy with this divorce, ask yourselves whether you trust your future in the hands of racists like Boris or Farage? The fact that this referendum was at 72% turnout, the highest since 1992 shows what’s really at the forefront of most people’s minds and heartbreakingly that’s a warped and fear induced view on migration. “Strengthening” our borders as a priority for leavers highlights abhorrent nationalistic tendencies; have we really come to the point of wanting to cherry pick who’s allowed in, favouriting privilege and entitlement?! Britain’s mentality is about to become a lot narrower, expect far right policies, zero tolerance for difference and a country only concerned with capitalism and profit for the rich.
If we actually cared so much about britains welfare we’d have seen far more engagement with elections and day to day politics.
I am honestly ashamed to be British today; I’m terrified of what’s about to come and I’m heartbroken the 52% of British public chose sovereignty over community. As we see consequences already emerging I hope the remain campaigners, like myself, will fight unconditionally for the love and strength we are so missing with our fellow world.’

Izzy Tomico Ellis 13501733_10154235937162999_3645185298627310908_n(17 June, after the shooting of Jo Cox) on bombs, police, and fences:

”’Never again”; is the phrase used to describe the Holocaust. The ensuing creation of the EU aimed to prevent a similar tragedy. Though this has been realised in Europe, all over the world atrocities of a similarly brutal nature have and continue to occur.

Britain is on the brink of destroying this union, imperfect as it may be, it is (ideologically) a step in the right direction.

Greed and hatred have created borders, division, inequality and a growing culture of extremism. This is being fought by dropping bombs and putting up fences, a completely inhumane and utterly stupid strategy. It is widely accepted that to solve a problem you tackle the route not the cause.

This hatred and greed is what spurs the racism, xenophobia and inequality we see.

The shooting of a Labour MP by a man who shouted Britain first is not unlike the crimes of ISIS that many supporters of the far-right use to justify their actions. They are too, extremists.

The widespread desire to leave the EU is routed in fears of immigration and of sharing, or simply the inability of being humane.

RIP Jo Cox and every other soul who has died fighting for dreams of a more kind world.’

Monique Alicia Bell (25 June) on not targeting the working class: 10415656_10153968028515135_6177404070199500498_n‘Really sad to see some of my associates sharing posts, memes and rants on here that directly target working class communities. Referring to names that are typically working class, using language that mocks those who don’t use the right vocabulary.

My opinions on Brexit still stand: those who ran the Leave campaign centred it around racist, xenophobic immigration rhetoric, but this was also seen quite a lot with the Remain camp too. This is not to say that everyone who voted leave is a racist xenophobe, but that campaign did unfortunately win votes from people who are constantly told their lack of access to resources is because of high immigration. To win these people over, we need to make the truth/counter-argument accessible for all. Not coming up with insults about them being uneducated fools who don’t even know what the EU is, and laughing at people who don’t really have much of an idea of what’s going on.

Being educated to university level is a huge privilege. It is not a given. I am living proof of that, university was not something I thought I would never be able to do, or was an option for someone like me. Prior to university, I didn’t know much about politics and could potentially have been one of these working class people you are mocking. Furthermore, being “educated” does not indicate how you will vote. I went to many debates prior to Brexit and the panels were filled with speakers who were more than qualified to speak on this matter.

Now we are hearing people say it was “the northerners”, or “the whole of South-West England” who ruined it. Let’s not be warped, you are now tarnishing just under 50% of that area because a marginal majority won a referendum. Now you are seeing articles about Londoners wanting to be their own independent state – this is an actual joke. I am a Londoner and couldn’t think of anything scarier than being stuck here with Westminster and the hidden inequalities of this complex city. Petitions for a second referendum – please let’s not waste anymore public money on this than we already have.

The only success of this whole referendum has been the ability to create further divide between the nation by gender, age, race, class and region. I am genuinely worried about the future of this country, but I am even more terrified about the division we are exemplifying amongst ourselves.

Also, can we remember our privilege here – we are not at war and facing bombs dropping down on us everyday; we have stupidly voted for Brexit in the name of “democracy”.’

Me  (25 June), I’m not going to include a photo: ‘People! Sure, I feel miserable, dreadful etc etc too. But telling all my friends about how shit I feel isn’t going to help much. If you live in a neoliberal state (are there any others?) you have to recognize that fact.
So pick yourself up again, make friends and allies, and carry on the fight for the poor, the excluded, the dispossessed. They need your solidarity and frankly the fact that you’re miserable about the referendum isn’t going to do them a lot of good. Build the movement now!’ (This has had two likes from Palestine, which won’t do it a lot of good except to prove that there’s only one struggle.)

You see how easy it is. 1257 words, in less than an hour. The piece by me is even original, or rather it’s copied from me.

I would add Mitch Mitchell’s recent post,1625496_711906438842455_178417503_nbut that would take me way over wordcount. The link to it (I think) is here. In any case you should find it easily.

I’ve quite possibly posted Auden’s ‘September 1, 1939’ before; it always seems to be coming up in my thoughts. It would be wrong to post the whole of it anyway, relevant though it is: here’s the most relevant verse, and the one we remember.
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.


Is seems appropriate (why?) to close with something punkily anarchistic from the Petrol Girls. I’m not sure if my technical expertise is up to it (it comes from their Facebook page).  But try clicking anything you can, and see if you have any luck.

DAY 174: In or out?

June 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

This seems to be the Hauptfrage today, or anyway tomorrow. Is our destiny with the Holy Roman Empire or the Holy British Empire? Do we belong with Delacroix or Burne-Jones? Flaubert or Fielding? Locke or Heidegger? And so on – so many insuperable questions; as so often in politics, you’re being asked to choose between two unattractive alternatives and then throw yourself heart and soul into defending the alternative you’ve chosen.

And accordingly it was almost by chance (though I had posted my intention on Facebook, typically) that I ended up at 4 today in Trafalgar Square at the Better Together rally in memory of Jo Cox. Rightly it was a major tearjerker; the stars were Jo’s husband, the representative from Syrian White Helmets and – amazingly – Malala Yousafzai. I don’t know if it will change anything, 13528807_10201569382554038_4539958661632812048_nI don’t think it matters. I was glad to be there with Yazzie Min, holding hands with neighbours and feeling some hope and the importance of solidarity.after (we agreed) a very bad week. Emotions had been seriously shaken up following Jo’s murder (see previous posts); it’s hard to see it as anything but traumatic.

At which point I need to insert some meditations on the role of traumatic  events in today’s politics, because I get the feeling that I’m too much exposed to them. And if I, what about all the others?  Are we too sensitized, or are the events becoming more raw, violent? That was a common feeling after Jo’s murder – things were being said which should have been beyond the reach of the sayable.

Another example, which I’d better mention as it’s constantly on my mind: As you know (or if you don’t know it, it’s not for want of being told)  I was away in Palestine IMG_0030for much of April. As the month wore on, the messages I was getting from my friends back home became increasingly (to me) bizarre – something was going on which I wasn’t being told, which I couldn’t be told; and at the same time, my friends, for some unknown reason, were becoming friends no more, splintering, falling apart.

Something happened, I could give you some of the details, but they aren’t, in my view, important. And as you can guess, once I got back, no one could, or would, give me an account of what had happened. It’s classic post-trauma behaviour.

art-therapy-australia-indigenousOvercoming trauma through art therapy (Oh yeah?) in what looks like a colonial Australian context

There was an atmosphere of ‘don’t go there’ which added to my personal trauma, the loss of what had become almost a family. I haven’t recovered, and I’d like to meet someone with a prescription for recovery; since it would involve unpicking those dangerous memories: as Macbeth say to the doctor,

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas’d,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the stuff’d bosom of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart?

The doctor, of course, is useless: ‘Throw physic to the dogs, I’l none of it.’ says Macbeth rightly.

Now of course this is where we can zero in and say – the trauma that has been happening to my group of friends can be seen paralleled on the national scale. Politicians are saying and thinking things which should be outside the thinkable, the sayable. If death results are we surprised?

I expect you’re waiting for me to get back to the original question (you thought I’d forgotten) of how you’re to vote in the referendum. Here the classic internal dialogue goes:

First Voice: Given the numbers involved, my vote isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference, I might as well go out and get pissed

Secoud Voice: If everyone thought like you – nay, even 2% of the population – the bad guys might win.

I’ve never quite known how to deal with this, since both sides are clearly right. And though Locke or Nietzsche might offer (probably conflicting) treatments, at this time I tend to look for answers in Hannah Arendt:arendt

‘The human sense of reality demands that men actualize the sheer passive givenness of their being, not in order to change it but to make articulate and call into full existence what otherwise they would have to suffer passively anyhow.’ (Human Condition, 208).

This quote is inserted for those readers who have been complaining that the blog’s intellectual standards are slipping. Make of it what you will, and vote accordingly. Or follow the prescriptions of Schiller: all men will be brothers

A vote to leave the EU isn”t exactly a vote against the brotherhood of man; but it’s hard to see it in a positive light.


DAY 173: Unaccompanied

June 18th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

I typed the word as a heading, relating to the situation of so many children in the camps in the north of France (which I’ll return to) but on this 18th of June, doesn’t it apply as much to you and me? Who is accompanying us in our journey through the approaching darkness? In almost my first post I reproduced a copy of ‘Guernica’ as a warning of the horrors to come. I had no idea.

First, a quote from my usual ‘moral compass’ (I overuse that phrase , I know) Izzy Tomico Ellis:

”’Never again”; is the phrase used to describe the Holocaust. The ensuing creation of the EU aimed to prevent a similar tragedy. Though this has been realised in Europe, all over the world atrocities of a similarly brutal nature have and continue to occur.

Britain is on the brink of destroying this union, imperfect as it may be, it is (ideologically) a step in the right direction.

Greed and hatred have created borders, division, inequality and a growing culture of extremism. This is being fought by dropping bombs and putting up fences, a completely inhumane and utterly stupid strategy. It is widely accepted that to solve a problem you tackle the route not the cause.

This hatred and greed is what spurs the racism, xenophobia and inequality we see.

The shooting of a Labour MP by a man who shouted ‘Britain first’ is not unlike the crimes of ISIS that many supportersYrGoeOpK_400x400 of the far-right use to justify their actions. They are too, extremists.

The widespread desire to leave the EU is routed in fears of immigration and of sharing, or simply the inability of being humane.

RIP Jo Cox and every other soul who has died fighting for dreams of a more kind world.’

The shooting of Jo Cox gives me, like Izzy, the feeling that we are descending into darkness. What do we have to set against them? The fact that everywhere groups of us are working against the darkness, the belief that we must prevail. And, of course, the simple knowledge which I repeat over and over again, that you can’t keep an increasing number of people out of ‘our Europe’ indefinitely.Why, even in Slovakia (I chose it at random as an example of a country which was hostile to migrants -maybe unfairly -) you will find your welcoming committeesutecenci-prichod-Gabcikovo

 and probably your local branch of ‘No Borders’. You can’t, as I keep repeating, hold us down for good, even if you gun down our militantsIs it good that I console myself in this way? The number of refugees in the camp at Calais has increased by 1000 (from 5178 to 6123, i.e. more than before the demolitions), access to convoys of food aid is being blocked – most flagrantly today (June 18th) when a high-profile convoy of 250 vehicles bringing food aid was stopped at the border. Hundreds of people had assembled in Whitehall before driving down to Dover, with ferry tickets booked for a crossing on Saturday afternoon.

But the French police, who carry out border checks on English soil as part of a bilateral treaty, refused entry to the country for unspecified security concerns.

This Ramadan the need is obvious in the camps of northern France and the authorities are doing nothing to alleviate it. To donate, among other appeals, you can go to The number of unaccompanied children in the camp is estimated at 544 (figure from ‘passeurs d’hospitalités’, probably a low estimate)Calais-Victims

Child’s toy, abandoned in Calais

In Syria, to continue with my brief tour d’horizon, the darkness is deeper and of a different kind; if a radical activist is shot you can be fairly sure that her murder, so far from being investigated, will be rewarded by the dark forces that instigated it. While in the West Bank of Palestine, the shootings  (often by the army, and not by random racist civilians) will continue, but will never be adequately followed up, as we know.

Where then can we look for comfort except in popular resistance, popular culture, a living community such as I found in Nablus, eloquently described by Yasmina Mehdaoui – who was there at the same time as me but has given a much fuller testimony.

‘The most rewarding time I ever experienced

By: Yasmina Mehdaoui

The 17 days I spent in Palestine were the most rewarding I ever experienced. Forget about the ‎media, about the politician speeches…etc. If you really want to learn about the reality of the  ‎occupation, you have to go there and see all of it with your own eyes. We had the chance to ‎visit Bethlehem, Hebron, and many other cities and villages around Nablus, which is where ‎we were staying during the whole volunteering program.‎

The training workshops we were offering to students were very interesting and rewarding. ‎They were an excellent way to exchange with the students and train them on debating skills in ‎English. We debated over political and social issues such as the Palestinians/Israelis conflict, ‎the Arab Spring, secularism system, the banning of the Hijab in France, Islam phobia in the ‎world, immigration…etc. It was interesting to have the students’ point of view and opinions ‎on these matters, and also exercise them to find arguments both sides, even if they were ‎against or for something in particular. Finding opposite arguments was a way to force them to ‎understand the opposite view, something important in the world, and something which was ‎also the point of the title of the Zajel camp: “Understanding is a two way effort”. I enjoyed ‎every moment I spent inside the old and new campuses in this great university where I could ‎clearly feel that “they challenge the present to shape the future”.‎

My purpose in Palestine was to understand more the impact of the occupation on people, try ‎to see the conflict through their eyes, exchange with them and hear what could be the ‎solutions of a predicament that has been going on for almost seventy years now since the 1948 ‎disaster.‎

I was able to witness the Israeli occupation, the settlements, the way Palestinians are treated, ‎the privation of their rights and properties, the moral harassment, humiliation, the total absence ‎of humanity through the Apartheid Wall and the ethnical discrimination, particularly in ‎Hebron city. There are no words to describe or express what you feel as you witness such ‎things, the frustration of feeling powerless and not being able to make a huge difference, the ‎anger towards some powerful countries that support and even finance the Israeli military ‎forces.‎

You think the apartheid system ended after American and South African segregation history ‎with the fight of Nelson Mandela, Malcom X or Martin Luther King, but Palestine is one of ‎the places that prove that wrong, and people around the world need to know that this racist ‎and degrading system still exists around the world.‎

I am happy and grateful for the whole Palestinians I was able to meet and learn from along the ‎way at An-Najah University and in the other places we had the great chance to go. I was truly ‎pleased to see their mental strength, the hope in their eyes despite the situation. The ‎Palestinian is not a trouble maker like they want us to believe in some of the media, the ‎Palestinians are smart persons, who dreams and just want to have a normal life. They do not ‎only struggle to survive; they simply want to live like everybody else, they want to be free. ‎But seeing the Israeli authority behavior and actions, it seems like it is just too much to ask.‎

I often heard this proverb “they used to say Palestinians fight like heroes, now they say heroes ‎fight like Palestinians”, and after this experience, I realized first hand that this proverb could ‎not be more accurate, they truly represent an example of strength and patience. ‎

I wish to thank Zajel Youth program and the An-Najah University students, the volunteers ‎and all the people I met, for reminding me what truly matters in life, and what it is like to be a ‎real and strong fighter on a daily basis.‎

Thank you for your generosity, kindness and hospitality. I will always remember you and will ‎definitely come back.‎’

I believe – and I hope that my friends who have been repeatedly visiting Calais share the belief – that such a culture of resistance is being built up across the refugee camps and the entire Middle East; and will become our common culture.

I may, after such events followed by an evening of the depressed works of Dowland and his mates, be reduced to that feeling of’: ‘Flow, my tears‘. But don’t despair! You can get it if you really want, people.


DAY 172: Ramadan

June 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Well, not strictly; and don’t expect me to start wishing my friends a Ramadan Kareem ramadanas so many North London pseudo-Muslims are doing; their observance almost certainly being limited to an affected sympathy for their fasting brothers and sisters. I myself have tried to do without coffee for six hours, and it was not a success. But Ramadan leads us on to much more significant thoughts about time and the value of thinking of others; and, inevitably, about the infinite.

I expect you like me spend a great deal of time pondering the infinite – not simply those eternally silent spaces which frighten us all. What is the significance of Gödel’s theorem? Is there a largest cardinal? How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? And so on. I worry, as I watch the speedometer inexorably climbing past 70 mph – how does it calculate the instantaneous velocity? No one seriously believes that it (the velocity, the quotient of two infinitely small quantities) exists – well, do you?

This is why (yes, there’s a huge non-sequitur here, which if I found it in an undergraduate essay I’d certainly thow a ‘D’ grade at) I feel increasingly that we seriously need to get some figures for the number of refugees who have arrived in Europe – or, indeed, in Calais – over the last 12 months. Is there some place where you can find accurate figures? OK, I’m a mathematician – forgive me, I find comfort in the thought that someone is out there counting, the live and the dead… 135,711 people had reached Europe by the start of 2016 ( And if that many arrived, how many failed

tombstones_lesvos_web-thumb-largeGraves of the unknown drowned in Greece

to reach Europe?

And how many of them (the ones who made it) are now celebrating Ramadan? – to attempt to introduce some sort of a unifying theme into these meditations. One assumes a fair number, who increasingly need accommodation in terms of mosques, imams, dates for iftar and other paraphernalia. Why should we know this? Because as anyone who knows anything about the infinitely small will know, where you have velocity, you also have acceleration. There are not only more, there are also – potentially – more of the more.

Consequently, my dear and long-suffering readers, there is NO BLEEDING POINT in the ceaseless attempts of the authorities across Europe to repress a potentially infinite (hang on, you can’t mean that) incursion. They come, they are drowned, they are imprisoned, teargassed, their tents are burned, they die on the barbed wire, they suffocate on the crossings. AND STILL THEY KEEP COMING! Because, as all the world knows (but won’t acknowledge) conditions back home are even worse.

It follows, dear rulers of Europe, that you should abandon the failed strategy of holding back the tide as your wise predecessor Cnut (the last sensible English king? and he was a Dane?) did, when he pointed Canute_rebukes_his_courtiersout to his idiotic courtiers, the predecessors of our government, that in a contest between the state and Nature, Nature is going to win, since it has God on its side. No, settle for what I have called elsewhere ‘the Andalusian solution’: allow Europe (whatever that may mean) to become a land where diverse religions coexist, flourish and enrich each other. Good for health, good for music (this is pure propaganda, but it fills the space).

And, naturally, as you might expect from this blog, medieval Arabic woman poets completely overturn all those stereotyped views you had of Muslim gender roles. (You did, didn’t you?) Had you never heard of Rabi’a al-Adawiyya, and feminist theory220px-Rabia_al-Adawiyya based on her life and work? The stories detailing her life and practices show a countercultural understanding of the role of gender in society, says Wikipedia, who should know. And her views on the after-life are similar to my own, I must admit. For how she kept Ramadan, I’ll need a source with more depth than Wikipedia. But here are her views on the after-life:

O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.

I’ll leave you with that thought. It’s way past iftar, and I’m late for a very important date. (Get it?)

DAY 171: Self-criticism

June 4th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

1st Movement – Allegro con moto What fun it always is, to be picked up on one’s foolish errors, hasty and ill-considered judgments, and sweeping generalizations; and to admit humbly how wrong one was. It plays, I suppose, for us Marxist-Leninists, the role which confession and absolution do for Catholics; but for us the acknowledgement of error is best done in public, not in a little box in church, but if possible at a plenary session in a conference. Oh, one does hope to do better – but will one?

To explain these reflections: I”ve just returned from a lightning trip to Calais, staying overnight in the always welcoming Belazur. The aim was impeccable: to deliver blankets (or ‘throws’

1113518_R_SET as Argos calls them), jogging pants, and other items of clothing to the warehouse which is currently running on empty, following the fire. The May census13178587_1544737029155701_35887389960810400_n gives the number of inhabitants as 5188, of whom 568 are children, 74% on their own. I was given an informal estimate of 100 new arrivals per day. Is this possible? I fear it’s true. Are we – are you – doing anything to help these people who arrive, homeless, hungry, without a friends, without covering? Plus an increasing number of smaller camps across the north of France (Chocques, Cherbourg, etc.; and Grande-Synthe, of which more later). There are many ways of finding out what’s needed; to name just one, go to for a list; collect things – all sorts, tents, blankets, wind-up torches, clothes , phone chargers,… There are similar sites for the smaller camps. Or, get friends together, get a van, drive things over. Anyway, such was my (as I say) excellent aim. Arrived at the warehouse I did my best to help, given my feeble abilities. It seemed to me greatly changed – how could it not be? I told some friends a bit about what I’d noticed. But this is where the trouble starts: friends  believe what you say and worry. And then I worry in my turn – was I in fact an honest witness? 2nd movement – Moderato cantabile Perhaps we worry too much about accuracy. Let’s take a brief detour via one of my favourite subjects, the system of accounting in Iraq around 2000 BCE. I have a well-known position on this (referred to by me but by no one else as ‘Hodgkin’s Thesis’): that the brutal system of exploitative taxation which the rulers of the Babylonian temple imposed on the peasants necessitated a fairly sophisticated mathematical apparatus, and hence a developed

ur3Accounting tablet from Ur 3

mathematics which in my opinion) was more important for the state’s functioning than literature. So accuracy was born. I was delighted, as any teacher would be, to find that this thesis appeared in a much more sophisticated form with references to the journal ‘RS21′, in one of my students’ coursework. I may yet, in this way, achieve the academic respectability which has so far eluded me. Probably because of my cavalier attitude to ‘facts’, which brings me back to the self-criticism. 3rd movement- Espressivo I actually went to the jungle (although warned not to) with some companionable students, and spent some time in attempting to solve the refugee problem. It passed the time, between the Ecole Laique and Jungle Books. And my friend and I decided that we’d pay a visit to the camp at Dunkerque, Grande-Synthe, to see if we could help there. Grande-Synthe has become well-knownFrance-Migrants-Smugg_Horo-e1443465479799 as ‘different’, since the mayor Damien Careme installed a ‘humanitarian camp’ there at the beginning of March, with cooperation from MSF. Almost immediately it was clear that the state didn’t like the camp and wanted to close it. At the same time the mayor’s aims seem to have become more obscure; in particular, he stated that if anyone left the camp, their shelter would be demolished (see commentary here). In a situation of growing numbers, this is no solution. I didn’t know this background; and my impressions of the camp on a very brief visit (I proposed volunteering, was introduced to the organization ‘Utopia56’ which in some sense runs it, but they couldn’t find anything for me to do) were pretty positive. No CRS in view, an improved infrastructure – electricity and bin disposal – seemed signs of good administration. The volunteers of course were encouraging and frienldly as volunteers mostly are, ditto the staff of ‘Utopis 56’. On this slender evidence , I wrote a report on Facebook which favourably contrasted the conditions at Grande-Synthe with those in the jungle. 4th movement – Molto agitato They aren’t, of course, comparable anyway. I was pretty sharply rapped, with some justice, by a few Calais hands who knew a great deal more then I did and had to admit publicly how little I knew and how shallow were my judgments. Which brings me back to the original theme of the virtues of self-ctiticism – can we use it for anything positive? As Tennyson put it I held it truth, with him who sings To one clear harp in divers tones, That men may rise on stepping-stones Of their dead selves to higher things. But who shall so forecast the years And find in loss a gain to match? Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch The far-off interest of tears? Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d, Let darkness keep her raven gloss: Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss, To dance with death, to beat the ground, Than that the victor Hours should scorn The long result of love, and boast, ‘Behold the man that loved and lost, But all he was is overworn.’ I know not all of this, in fact almost none of it, is relevant to my theme, but once Tennyson gets going, you find yourself carried away by the raven gloss and the victor Hours; and sort of forget, as so often, what you were on about. Can I rise on stepping-stones of my dead self to higher things? Self-criticism, as we know, is something which often hits you when you’ve got a hangover, which often hits you if you suffer from AUD or Alcohol Use Disorder (11 criteria for this in DSM-5, and just 2 are enough! Jeez!) It’s a problem for 7.2 percent of adults in the United States, I don’t know about France, let alone Latvia. Here, as a parallel, is Bob Dylan’s moving self-criticism ‘Sooner or Later‘. (It seemed a bit hard to find, this looks like the real thing off a Turkish pirate website.)

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