DAY 204: Hope and flowers

February 14th, 2017 § 0 comments

Continuing the discussion – what to do when you can’t do anything. That is – you can do your best to rescue those who governments and police are trying to condemn to death through hypothermia, refugees in Lesvos or children hiding out in the woods of Calais pursued by police etc etc; but it’s pitiful. Why bother? An old post (‘tear gas canisters into flower pots’) from Telva Jenkins had an inventive suggestion.

‘Hi everyone. I would like to realise an idea I have had to transform the police violence and opression into flowers of hope. I picked up a couple of teargas cans whilst in Calais in December doing lantern workshops with Amia Wolfe, and I knew there was a project in them! I would like to collect as many as possible and grow things in them with a view to a public display and/or sell them to raise money for the kitchens. I know it can be hard to find a pen (esp. Permanent marker) in the jungle but if people (refugees and volunteers) want to write a message or wish on them that would be even more amazing (i will send pens out!). I have arranged with Ian Wood of Ashram kitchen to bring them to me on his return journeys. So if people can collect them and encourage others to do so I would love and appreciate that. Wish I could be there in person to help but am not able to due to my health so this is my alternative. Xx ps if anyone knows any other good groups on fb that you could share this too please do. Thanks’

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Chiara Lauvergnac as you can imagine was sarcastic about the effectiveness of this. So let’s drop effectiveness as a criterion. In a more spiritual mode – and what are flowers if not spiritual? –  is a quote which I meant to include last week, but lost it It’s by Daniel Kerrigan, and was in an article by Sam Donaldson in the Friend:

‘From a religious point of view, nonviolence is not primarily a tactic. It is a way of living and being and expressing the truth of your soul in the world. Tactics come and go. Tactics now work and now do not work. The gift of faith, as I understand it, is to be able to die well when called to. It may yet come for us. I recall Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in prison writing that, in his situation, there was very little he could do. “One can only”, he said, “tell the truth and say one’s prayers.” And then he went to die. That was his politics. He told the truth, he said his prayers, and he died. That was his gift to us. So, I think this concentration upon political effectiveness is very often a trap. There is, in fact, very little one can do in certain circumstances. One can only know effects later, or the survivors know what the gift meant. You can’t immediately proclaim political effectiveness. Hope is a mystery, a gift. It has nothing to do with optimism.’

Why does this speak to me particularly now? I’m not particularly concerned with nonviolence, but I admire it; and in this dire situation I’m concerned as we should all be with tactics and hope. What I understand to be the message of the quote is: we can’t think in terms of the success of what we’re doing . To imagine its success in the present conditions is to lose before we start, at the same time as we go on battling to help the weak from day to day. We must look for hope.

The daily grind

In an attempt to do something about the situation, and also to fight the loneliness of old age (When you’re 28 you never never imagine yourself getting to 78, or what your life will be like then), I signed up in December as a volunteer with Islington Law Centre, well known for their role in fighting the  court case which, in January 2016, brought four young people out of the jungle of Calais to be reunited with their families in England. This (my acceptance by the law centre) took some time – we’re talking about the law which Hamlet accused of delaying; but I was finally signed up about three weeks ago. The law centre has been constantly  subjected to cuts (what hasn’t?), particularly on the reception desk; it was as a receptionist that I was accordingly signed up. I don’t have any qualifications for the job apart from being able to type, and I hope I can make the grade, because my social life has indeed improved 100%. Two days a week I spend in the company – not of lawyers, they have better things to do – but of other receptionists,

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Receptionists – professional and volunteers

answering the phone and trying to reassure the desperate citizens of Islington that they are not going to spend the night on the street or lose their disability benefit, the outcome which the wicked government and/or landlords are determined to see; and, hopefully, finding them an appointment with a real lawyer who can help fix the problem about which they are desperate. Not tomorrow, lawyers subject to cuts don’t work like that, but some months into the future. While the three or four of us – and as you can imagine, I’m both the oldest and the most inexperienced, always fluffing the phone transferring system – carry out these essential tasks. And chat in the lunch break (yes, it’s nonstop outside the lunch break with all those calls and letters, but we do get an hour with a kettle and a microwave), about matters Islingtonian. It’s the nearest I’ve got to real life since I was laid low by illness six months ago, and I’m seriously enjoying it.

Poetry: This about Raqqa seems to be by an American, but whatever.

Slaughtered Silently

Scribing silently in old Abbasid Raqqa
A doctor-poet secretly worships at art’s altar,
Guided by history and the luminous lanterns of Seville
Collective unconsciousness is devoured, yet still:

Swaying silently in old Bedouin Raqqa
Black flags rise as his troupe plot their escape,
Dancers and musicians flee the city between tears
To roam like ancestors – but unknown on the road and laden with fears.

Slaughtered silently in old Ayyubid Raqqa
Daring dissidents shuffle amongst the traitors,
The altar of art replaced by that of depravity
While watch is kept by Ruqia – a Lieutenant of humanity.


Aleppo is slaughtered silently.

Daraa slaughter’d silently…

All bleed under the same dead sky,
But timeless! The Levantine idea will not die.

Daniel W. Round


Here, for a complete change, is an oldish bit of French schlock: France Gall’s Evidemment

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