Month: December 2013

End of the EDL?

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English: EDL Protest
English: EDL Protest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2013 will be memorable for many reasons for me; personally I have started my journey to a new life in the South East of France with the sale of my home in Manchester. The money is in the bank, I have a nice house on the outskirts of a town in Northern England and a house rented near Grasse from which to conduct my search for a new permanent home.

But what of one of the reasons I despair so much about Britain – the far right!

Well 2013 was a bad year for the EDL, it cannot be denied. They lost their charismatic leader Tommy Robinson in an exit facilitated  by the Quilliam Foundation and a BBC documentary. But the organisation’s demise could have come sooner, had it not been for one key factor, the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich.

The killing, in broad daylight near Rigby’s army barracks, gifting Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a new impetus. In dire financial straits and concerned about neo-Nazi elements in his midst, the EDL leader had wanted a way out for some time, say those close to matter.

“Prior to Lee Rigby’s murder, the EDL was finished. It was physically dead…” said  Matthew Collins of Hope not Hate the anti-Fascist movement. The founder and leader, Lennon (Robinson)  had absolutely no interest, he was worried about going to prison. The EDL had radicalised people, however, people who thought they had no way of expressing what they didn’t like. So 2,500 people came out in Newcastle after Lee Rigby’s murder.

No such response to 7/7 and no response either from the numerous Muslim Organisations. The EDL gave people a branch on which to cling in what they thought were desperate times. But no longer I think. Social integration never really existed in Britain and the EDL spoke to those who believe that the country is being over-run by immigration, the EDL feeds those fears to its own ends based on hatred.

Since Robinsons departure the EDL has become quiet but insists it will go on, but how without the media friendly (well media worthy is probably more accurate) Robinson it is difficult to say. The EDL may pass but the ideology will not. The EDL has radicalised around 3000ish working class men into counter-jihadists who will be looking for a new home, new leadership at the very least. They may (re)turn to the BNP who have a political foothold in the European Parliament through their leader Nick Griffin or they may find solace in UKIP (unlikely though, these are working class men not high rolling bankers).

It would appear however distressing that the tattooed working class racist thug is here to stay and should the Muslim community remain separate; alien to some, then these thugs will persist and may go on to kill in kind.

2014 is probably the last year we will hear that chant of E – E – EDL! but if our French cousins are anything to go by then the far-right will re-emerge again and again in ever more nasty and ugly guises I fear. Helped in recruitment no doubt by the gutter press media and acts of plain stupidity in public by those in the eye of the media. Take for example yesterday where Nicolas Anelka made a goal celebration which appeared to be the quenelle salute made famous by the French comedian Dieudonne. The gesture is strongly linked to anti-Semitism in France. The perfect example of why tensions will be persistent.

The end of the EDL? I think yes. The end of racial hatred and the far right? definitely not I’m very sad to say.

Pussy Riot Free – PR Stunt!

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Free Pussy Riot
Free Pussy Riot (Photo credit: gaelx)

Today the jailed band members of Pussy Riot have been freed under a controversial amnesty by the Russian Government. I am not sad but I am not happy either.

I don’t believe the amnesty is a humanitarian act, its a PR stunt aimed at softening the image of the Russian Government and specifically Mr. Putin.

I would accept that the stunt the band pulled was ill-advised and that it was totally disrespectful in the extreme to those who feel the church has a place in their lives. But honestly, imprisonment for being a real pain in the backside? I ask was justice served by sending these women to prison? NO! it was revenge plain and simple. And now when it suits the governments purpose the women are released.

As a PR stunt I’d say its pretty blunt and unsophisticated – Russia government – try again cos we aint convinced!

Marsha Alyokhina (one of the jailed band members) spoke on Dozhd TV, saying she would have preferred to have stayed in prison, but had no option but to accepted the amnesty, calling it a “profanation.” Human rights activists were waiting to greet her as she came out of prison, with Alyokhina telling reporters she wanted to meet her band-mate Nadia Tolokonnikova before speaking to journalists.

Nadia Tolokonnikova is expected to be released imminently from a prison hospital, where she has been following a hunger strike.

The pair are freed under a controversial amnesty bill passed by the Russian parliament last week, which grants the release of 25,000 “vulnerable” inmates, those who are elderly, sick or pregnant. Both Pussy Riot members qualify because they are mothers of young children. Indeed?

Analysts believe that the amnesty, as well as the release of Russia’s most famous prisoner, the Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky, is an attempt to stem criticism of Russia’s justice system and human rights before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The Arctic 30 Greenpeace protesters are also free under the amnesty.

The third Pussy Riot protester, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was given a suspended sentence in October last year, because she had been thrown out of the cathedral before reaching the altar to perform.

Pussy Riot may not make great music or give fantastic performances but they are artist’s nonetheless. For anybody who disagrees look-up situationalism and dada as examples of what Pussy Riot do.

Good Luck Pussy Riot and all who go in their wake.

Are they worth it?

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Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la vers...
Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la version hébreu de Wikipédia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Youth (yoof) culture in the UK to a large extent is informed in attitudes by Hip-Hop Culture, or certainly the gift-wrapped version we see on MTV, Virgin Music… Critics may be easily prompted to dismiss this version of ‘yoof culture’ as the ramblings of uneducated and lazy youth. But I point to the growing levels of violence practiced against the youth by older and wiser (?) generations and by youth on youth or gang violence mostly in our urban centres.

The State terror that drove Aaron Schwartz to commit suicide; the domestic violence that killed Kasandra Perkins; the communal violence that killed Trayvon Martin and fatally wounded Malala Yousufzai; have all become commonplace. Not UK violence but for sure the violence that we meet every evening on the 6 pm news broadcast. The message is clear, people of youth are violent! Its a crisis!

Education can and often does address the underlying causes of violence but is not the sole key to addressing this crisis.Teachers must help reclaim the public by affirming with youth that life is worth living. Pedagogy must wrestle with the fact that the worth of youth largely swings between being targeted as (new) consumers and being seen as a disposable population fit only for the prison.

Renewed societal values are absolutely central to the improvement in youth experience; by showing how racism, sexism, and economical exploitation shape the outcomes and therefore the values of the youth, teachers have an opportunity to use the past experience of youth to improve the possible future experience of youth. Some Feminists building on critical views of the traditional nuclear family have illuminated the complex ways that power and violence function in the nuclear family and heterosexual relationships. Yet the buck stops there – the family is to blame?

I think not, well not entirely anyway. We lack the language and values necessary to address the states of terror that have escalated into youth-on-youth violence.

As we move into a more technologically-integrated society (Facebook, Twitter, Google+…), the pressing question is how to elevate the experience and contribution of the youth through these social networking platforms. The first task in answering this question is to challenge the notion that the youth are aloof and normalized to the violence in their midst. If we look closely at these social media hangouts, we find that youth are driven by two goals: the need to share information, and the need to be content creators.

Our next task, then, is to engage them in transforming their ingenuity and passion to share and create content that revises the modern world. Obvious blueprints have been offered. The revolutionary maneuvers of youth in North Africa have been realized through Twitter as a cabal for strategy. The Occupy movement illustrated how we can create webs of inclusion in a leaderless movement, and introduced the public speaking platform known as mic check. These ideas engender a generational attitude encapsulating a way of being. Of social awareness on a grander scale.

This isn’t however, the Marxist dream of a classless society. The economic, social and educational carnage youth face in the streets makes us culpable for failing to create effective institutions that integrate youth into society. If the future belongs to the youth, we must engage them by transforming the ideas of identity management on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into community management by asking them to help share and create ideals we can live by.

“Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong
Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong
And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I’m gone
I am worth it?”
— Kenderick Lamar

Does Forgiveness = Justice?

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Forgiveness
Forgiveness (Photo credit: Celestine Chua)

The death and subsequent celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life has brought me to think deeply about his very being, his reasoning and his impact (globally).

Its probably fair to say that Nelson Mandela was a world statesman of outstanding stature and that he was much admired for his accommodation of his persecutors rather than unleashing country-wide revenge and blood-letting. His behavior immediately following his release from prison marks him out as a remarkable leader which it would be wonderful if others would emulate his example.

But…

The context in this case as in any case is all important. Only those who have been persecuted and suffered hold the position where forgiveness can be proffered.  And forgiveness can only be given where the persecuted has the power to forgive, that they have political power over their former persecutors, or more fundamentally that they have survived the persecution, the attempt to harm. It is only in these circumstances that forgiveness can be given.

Nobody is entitled to give forgiveness for the harm done to others, regardless of their closeness. You cannot suffer and forgive for others. In short only the victim can forgive. There can theretofore be no forgiveness for the crimes of Hitler or Stalin or Mao or many others; to forgive them would be to deny their victims and attempt to change history.

Self-evident as this position may seem there is nonetheless a predication by western politicians to accommodate perceived evil, to as it were make room for the enemy within. Compromise and accommodation are seen as preferable for ‘peace’ rather than conflict. Our leaders somehow find a way of ‘blinding’ themselves to the obvious peril of allowing some people to continue to function and think the way they do. To remain an enemy.

It is a view that refuses to recognize the difference between truly evil regimes, the Apartheid regime being a perfect example, and those who though different have much in common with our own. It inevitably leads to appeasement of the unappeasable and the associated victory of evil over good.

Little surprise however in today’s climate where good and bad have become relative concepts, the difference blurred to a point where distinction between the two is all but impossible. Its so blurred to the point where those regimes seen as victim regimes but who from time to time practice bad behavior are tolerated and allowed to persist, ignored or even condoned. The ANC did kill those it saw as traitors by ‘necklacing’ – putting a tyre around a persons neck and burning them to death. Wholly unacceptable behavior by any regime at any time but nevertheless overlooked as it was done by those people where the victims of the odious Apartheid regime.

Its hard if not impossible to not see Nelson Mandela in the light of the forgiving statesman for this was his signature characteristic. The substitution of justice with ‘truth and reconciliation’ could well be the overriding reason that at the time of his release from prison and election as South African President there wasn’t a blood-bath, an orgy of revenge by the recently oppressed Black South Africans on their Afrikaner tormentors but the restraining influence of Nelson Mandela has now departed and what is in store for South Africa can only be speculation. But that speculation seems to be suggesting that there may well be a conflict, after all the lot of the black South African is not much changed in 20 years.

Society needs to express its collective abhorrence of evil actions so that justice is done and society is better for it, it is less likely to commit the same actions in the future.

This is why justice must be served, criminal trials are an absolute necessity to ensure any semblance of justice. Forgiveness may well be necessary for individuals to move on out of the darkness, but justice is necessary for society to function. The ability to forgive is a great virtue but it is not a replacement, not even a poor replacement for justice. The fundamental distinction between right and wrong, good and bad cannot be replaced, to do so is to allow confusion to be the moral guiding light, something I fear western governments are increasingly all to prone to doing.

Death of a Peacekeeper

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Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material ...
Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material in Bangui; © OCHA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a strange day yesterday, a very strange day indeed. There was the world media event that was the Nelson Mandela memorial, President Obama et al involved in a ‘selfie’ caught on camera by the press and then there was the conflict in Central African Republic.

The French Army, there as peace keepers, peace makers actually but I’m sure you know what I mean banned all media activity for the day. This is unusual to say the very least. Journalists were banned from filming with the French Forces, cancelled until further notice.

Journalists were left to report and film in the absence of armed protection and so they did what journalists do, they made reports.  And these reports, what did they say?

They told the story of a lawless country, of streets barred to ordinary people and to the journalists as it happens. But yesterday the army roadblocks had been removed, almost as if the effort to prevent further slaughter by the militia were suspended for the day! And then the news came that French President Francois Holland was to visit or more accurately fly into a secure, (very secure actually, the army had been taken off the streets to protect him during the visit) airport surrounded by soldiers and barbed wire then fly back out again.

Nonetheless journalists did witness some peacekeeping forces in action. Forces from FOMAC from the UN, African Troops this time were engaged in a fire-fight with local militia whilst covering people seeking to go about their business as usual as possible in these extraordinary circumstances. At least one was felled, killed I don’t know but probably and given the reports possibly from gunfire from his own troops who were seen to be firing what can be best described as in a chaotic manner.

But did we see the report? Not unless you go looking for the information.

I am reminded of Romeo Dalliers, the most senior UN military official on the ground during the Rwandan conflict who said of Africa and Africans that they were people who had nothing to lose except their lives. But that their lives were worthless in the eyes of the world and so what should be expected is more not less conflict, more not less hate, and more not less death.

The death of the two French Soldiers is without doubt a tragedy, but we have to place a higher value on human life, all human life no matter where they were born, what their wealth, no matter what their skin colour or who they pray too. Human life is NOT an economic statistic!

What to remember of Nelson Mandela

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English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo date...
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo dates from 1937. South Africa protect the copyright of photographs for 50 years from their first publication. See . Since this image would have been PD in South Africa in 1996, when the URAA took effect, this image is PD in the U.S. Image source: http://www.anc.org.za/people/mandela/index.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are things that we should remember of Nelson Mandela?

1948 was a symbolic date in many ways, not least because during this year the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was being drafted and the very same nations writing this declaration were wholly supporting the South African Apartheid system. Nelson Mandela stood as a powerful personality against the Apartheid system, he stood for equality for the right of a black skin person to be judged equal to a white skin person and to a brown skin person.  He also stood for the right of the white and the brown skin people to have equality with black skin people.

Nelson Mandela embodied the notion of equality. He asked but 2 questions:

  1. Is it fair that because a person has white skin that they have more rights than those who don’t?
  2. Is it fair that because a person has black skin that they have less rights than people who don’t?

What remains of these questions about skin colour is found in the collective imagination. All nations must be sure to say collectively that their nation belongs to them no matter what colour your skin is, that each and every one of us has a role to play, that we have equality of opportunity and of responsibility.

There are un-countable millions who feel as I do that an educated population provided with equality of opportunity not judged on skin colour or religious practice has within its collective imagination the resources to overcome the challenges of harmful ideas and victimization.