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Purim Disqus

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It will soon be Purim; a Jewish Festival of enjoyment and celebration. I wrote about this very same festival last year around the time I celebrated with friends in North Manchester, great fun. But what is Purim? What is the story?

Purim is the story of Esther and how she saved the Israelite people of Persia:

There once lived a King by the name of Achashverosh, who ruled over Persia in the third century, BCE.

The story begins with a grand feast that the King was throwing at his palace. Irreconcilable differences propelled the King to divorce and seek a new queen. In search of a new queen, the King commanded his men to travel throughout the kingdom in search of the loveliest of maidens so that he could view them and choose the most beautiful to be his wife and the new Queen.

Around this time there lived a gorgeous woman named Esther. She lived in a small province with her uncle Mordechai. She knew that being the Queen of Persia would be good for her people, so she prepared herself to be brought before the King.

Once the King saw Esther he stopped looking and she became the new Queen of Persia.

One day while passing by the palace gates, Mordechai overheard two guards plotting a revolution with the intent to kill King Achashverosh. Mordechai informed Esther, and the militants were captured and executed. Mordechai saved the King’s life.

The King had an advisor named Haman. This advisor was power hungry and conniving. Haman disliked the Israelites, especially Mordechai. When Haman would travel throughout the towns, he expected the people to bow down to him, as he was second in command to the King. Mordechai refused to bow.

In order to gain favor with the King and rid himself of Mordechai and his people, Haman devised a plan to kill them all. Haman used his sharp tongue and twisted the thoughts of Achashverosh, alleging that Mordechai’s people would cause a problem for the King and that the King should lend his seal to a petition to have them destroyed. The King authorized the genocide and letters were written and sent to all the provinces of Persia bearing the King’s seal.

Haman drew lots to pick the date upon which the genocide would begin. The thirteenth of Adar (the month of Pisces) was the selected day for the mass extermination of the people. Remember this date.

When Mordechai caught word of this, he tore his clothes in mourning, dressed in a sackcloth and cried before the King’s gate.

When Esther was told about her uncle’s behavior she sent him new clothes, but he refused them. He sent her a message telling her to go to the King and plead for the lives of her people.

The law in Persia at that time was strict; no one was to approach the King unless they were summoned. To disobey was punishable by death. Esther sent word back to her uncle that the townspeople should fast for three days, she would do the same, and after the three days she would approach the King.

After three days, Esther went to the King who was so pleased to see her that he held out his scepter and asked her if he could grant her a request. Esther asked the King and Haman to join her in her quarters for a banquet that she would prepare on the following day.

As Haman left the Palace that evening he saw Mordechai. So full with hatred was he for Mordechai, that he resolved the next morning he would ask the King’s permission to hang Mordechai in a public spectacle on gallows fifty feet high.

That same night the King could not sleep and he asked to hear the daily chronicles, which recorded the events of the palace. There the King learned that Mordechai informed the King about a scheme to overthrow the kingdom and kill the King. Mordechai had saved the King’s life, but had not been rewarded for his loyalty.

When Haman arrived in the morning, the King asked Haman’s advice as to the appropriate manner to honor a person that has found great favor with the King. Haman, assuming that it was he who was to be honored, said that the man should be allowed to wear the King’s crown, the King’s clothes and should be led through town on the King’s horse, proclaiming that this man is favored by the King.

King Achashverosh accepted the idea and told Haman to give this honor to Mordechai. Enraged, Haman followed the King’s orders. That night was the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared for the King and Haman. The King was so pleased with her, that again he asked Esther if he could grant her a request. This time Queen Esther asked her husband to save her life, the life of her people, and her uncle, Mordechai, who the king had honored that day. The King was horrified that the life of his queen and his devoted Mordechai were threatened and demanded to know who was responsible for this. Esther replied that it was Haman.

Haman fell to his knees before the King and pleaded for his life, but the King ordered that Haman be hung on the very gallows that he had intended for Mordechai. Mordechai was then made the new advisor to the King.

However, the order of genocide could not simply be revoked, so the King ordered that the Israelites be informed and armed to fight in their own defense. Due to their awareness of the kabbalistic tools of unity, the 72 Names of God, and their understanding of the cosmic cycles of the kabbalistic calendar, the Israelites of Persia triumphed over the Persian Army. They awakened the power of miracles available in the month of Adar/Pisces. And moreover, they were able to alter their destiny.

(Story c/o livingwisdom/kabbalah.com)

purim

So what does this story tell us? what does it teach?

The story of Purim is a story that teaches that we must overcome one of our greatest enemies; doubt.

Esther could not affect the destiny of her people until she affected the cause of their impending calamity. By saying her people should fast for 72 hours and give succor to one-another she helped her people come together, to overcome the desire for self alone and awaken the energy of unity through the experience of sharing. The king armed them, they fought and overcame their impending doom.

For Jews the time of Purim is a time of celebration. If you go to a Jewish area wherever you find yourself, in whatever country you are you will almost certainly find a community in festive mood. Parties, cake, drink, face-painting for children and general merriment – a time of joy.

Doubt is an enemy of achievement an enemy of aspiration. Doubt of others is bad, but Doubt of yourself is worse. Be sure of yourself, know who and where you are in your life. Know who and where you would like to be in your life. Do not doubt yourself and go and achieve.

These are the lessons from Esther.

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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.

Forgivness

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Temple of Forgiveness
Temple of Forgiveness (Photo credit: arno gourdol)

Forgiveness does not justify another’s actions (against you).

The true benefactor of forgiveness is ourselves, do not make the mistake of assuming it is for the benefit of the offender, of the person we forgive.

By giving forgiveness you free yourself from the effects they have on you and your well being.

Transparency in Business

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Green tinged avatars appeared on Twitter, Face...
Green tinged avatars appeared on Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up was a shocking experience on the whole when compared to the modern era; over-cooked veg, no 24-hour TV and the curtains remained shut to keep the prying eyes of the neighbors out! As my mother would say “you only need to open the curtains of the room you’re happy letting the neighbors see in”. The rest of the house as it happens was a mess she wasn’t prepared to let anybody see.

So when you (or much more likely that new-hire who remains glued to their computer screen bemoaning the internet connection and that they cant access their Facebook account) decide that you want some business transparency as a policy you better watch out. Once you let it out of the bag that actually your business isn’t that squeaky clean on the corporate responsibility front or that you have a supply-chain that your customer could save a packet by going direct, well then you have a problem as well!

The thing is that most businesses should have stapled to the inside of the eye-lids of any would-be transparency champion a note that says “some (a lot) of what we do is commercially sensitive”. Once the cats out you can tick the transparency box and then go directly to a PR company so that you can heal the damage done. The basic commercial functions of your business are just that and not really the stuff of public knowledge because when they are you no longer have a business.

What you really have to remember is just how your company actually makes money. It charges people more than it cost you to either make the thing or provide the service. Profit is a dirty word often confused with Rip-Off in a lot of peoples minds.

Social Media, is not the preserve of the young, tho it may seem so sometimes. Its just that the speed of post often is soooooo much quicker than the speed of the brain thinking through the practical effects of the post made. When you see the very excited face of the (young) person you’ve told to go ahead and implement your new transparency policy through the use of social media you should at that point be warned!

The very first point of call for the would-be transparency champion will be Twitter. Now this might be my age (although I do have a Twitter account that I do use daily) but to be honest it really doesn’t do it for me. Its a way of sending our a message that I’ve posted a new blog post, just like this one. The main reason for Twitter so far as I can see is telling anybody remotely interested about celebrity naughtiness and getting a bunch of Arabs into the local town square. Never mind that its a completely free way of telling the world just what you’re up to, a way of broadcasting to the world in that spirit of transparency that which you don’t actually want the public to know. And its fast, very fast!

Reducing what you have to say to no more than 140 characters would just about give you enough words to explain that you suck the blood of your customers to make money! You could follow a couple of feeds first to see how its done perhaps, but the question you’ll have to ask yourself is “if the feed you’re reading is that good does the company responsible really have that much integrity?”

My advice then is keep a very close eye on what gets posted about your business on social media, its important to be current but not foolish, being foolish is never going to be a trend worth following I think. Keep your corporate responsibility in-line with your business activities and then stamp with ‘Do Not Disturb’ allowing no further access to those interested in transparency.

Transparency therefore is okay when you’re happy with whats on show, the rest however really should stay behind closed curtains.

They were called Gypsies

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A Polish Romani woman
A Polish Romani woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Europe has a long and diverse history so far as the Roma or Gypsy are concerned. The Roma population is not homogeneous in nature, it is divided through the events of history and the passage of time.

The Roma populations right across Europe share common parts of their language and expressions but the stories they tell are very different indeed.

In France the first record of Roma is from the Bohemian populace and dates from the Middle Ages. In Romania, Moldovia and Wallachia there could be found a very high concentration of Roma peoples linked to the often found enslavement of these people. Slavery was abolished in the 1850’s and it was recorded that in Romania they had over 200,000 Roma in a total population of 4.4 million people.

Today there is presently around 10 million Roma right across the European Diaspora and notably about 14 million world-wide, so a European issue really. Roma peoples in Central and Eastern Europe account for anything up to 10% of the populace. In Western Europe the story is very different. In France for example there are 250,000 Roma derived from the group formally known as the ‘nomads’; these were people engaged in itinerant occupations recorded in ‘The Plan of the Nomads’.

Spain and Portugal also have very defined groups with a very strong sense of identity. After the Great Plague of 1347 in the Middle Ages people migrated from Graeci, Albanasi and Cingari to Southern Italy, Spain & Portugal. In Spain the Roman Catholic Monarchs practiced against the Roma in the same way they practiced against the Jews; conversion or death. This policy led to a concentration around Andalucia where the Flamenco culture comes from. Back in France Roma collected in the Catalan towns of Marseille and Montpellier living a sedentary lifestyle.

Today the reason for Roma movement is driven by the factors of economic activity and a place to live freely.

Roma populations are broadly speaking right across Western Europe rejected, but this is nothing new. In France there have been many notable attempts to purge the Kingdom of the Roma. Into the 19th century the Roma had a much better time of it and were tolerated in France. This changed in 1907 when things turned very violent, the policing of the wandering risk , the abject race as they became known. By 1930 most Western States had made legal arrangements to control the Roma, to record who they were, where they were and what they were doing.

In 1940 the French State went further in requiring full assimilation of the Roma. They were no-longer allowed to just drift and to have an independent identity. They were either French of not French. But things relaxed some in 1969 when the Roma with no fixed place of residence were given the name of traveler.

In the modern era life for the Roma is once again becoming difficult through social and cultural mistrust. The political climate is again moving against the Roma. But there is confusion; the Roma from Southern France, Spain, Italy as well as Central Europe share a common identity. The Roma from the UK, Northern France, Switzerland and the Scandinavian Countries are not joined by a common heritage.  The status of these Roma is still and shall remain subject to national identities. The proposed French administrative system of travelers permits is perhaps a way of dealing with the activities, movements and work arrangements but will rely on some level of European integration or assimilation.

One of the central European dreams is freedom of movement of people and the Roma typify freedom of movement, its just that the national administrative systems cannot hope at present to keep up with the movements of the Roma. Non-the-less the total movement of people is near to 15,000 across Europe so nothing like the 250,000 people who made their way into France in the Middle Ages.

Protection of the rights of the Roma is important but the stateless sense of the Roma people has got to be addressed. The Roma bring mistrust among local populations, crime and localized environmental issues to be addressed. The Roma cannot be allowed to become stateless and therefore free from tax liability, free from social accountability and free from cultural inclusion but they must be allowed to maintain their very essence.

Of course the effects of the travelers from Northern Europe are all together a different matter. These Roma are not ethnically identified, they are people who have chosen to adopt a life-style, something short of homeless. They have a home, they have a national identity, they do not need assimilation, they do not form part of a Diaspora, they bring social, cultural and legal difficulties and they contribute little in the way of economic or societal contribution.

To understand the Roma is to understand their history and who they actually are.

White Widow

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AMISOM Al Shabab and Somali public
AMISOM Al Shabab and Somali public (Photo credit: macalin)

Today (Tuesday 24 Sept. 2013) the print and on-line media is in a real spin with speculation that Samantha Lewthwait branded the ‘White Widow’ in the British press is involved and possibly killed in the al Shabab attack by islamic extremists on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

She’s 29 years old, has 4 children and is the widow of Germaine Lindsay one of the 7/7 bombers who killed himself and others in the London June 2005 atrocity. She disappeared not long after driving speculation that she is involved in islamic terrorist activities. Survivors from the Nairobi attack have said that there’s a veiled white woman involved in the killings and of course the press media have made a great leap in their speculation.  That isn’t to say they aren’t right though.

What we do know is that al Shabab is definitely behind the action, they’ve claimed responsibility and they have form. British media has jumped on the claims from al Shabab that Lewthwait is part of the armed group attacking the shopping complex. As far as the islamists are concerned she’s the star turn. Indeed the British sources are suggesting that Lewthwaite is actually behind the attack and is running it.

All this said if she is indeed a member or affiliate of an organisation such as al Shabab the British (and probably the Americans too) have a problem. The Americans backed by the Brits and now the French seem to have a single solution to conflict where there’s an islamic element involved; military action. We (I mean the royal we here) have lost sight of what is happening in our own countries. There are whole areas where islam is the overarching cultural influence. Sections of society are not British but are islamic, and this is a concern. These people are becoming radicalized and using the relative wealth naturally derived from living in a developed liberal western society to get themselves into terror training camps which are on the whole in those places on the globe which are inaccessible (in failed states).

This isn’t new, its just more pressing than it used to be (has anyone read Londinistan?). We are generating our very own terrorists and exporting them to kill and maim those who are the easier targets. A bit more inward concentration, a bit more public action in our own country really wouldn’t go a miss. The British (and I’d guess the American and French public would welcome the action) public would seem a whole lot happier if action was taken at source instead of seeing those responsible allowed to drift almost at will around the world exporting their very own brand of lunatic terror.

I was talking with a colleague earlier today and he was very anxious to explain that those undertaking the attack in Kenya are not real Muslims. Well my understanding of islam is that he is probably right.

There is lesser & greater jihad. Greater jihad is about persuasion, education and evangelism. It also says that islam should not be forced on non-believers. All commendable and those who stick to these rules are perfectly okay with me, I have no difficulty with islam or Muslims. Lesser jihad is concerned with war and is essentially a last resort when an islamic nation is under attack by an unjustified aggressor. Now this too I don’t actually have a problem with except to say that no islamic nation is under attack by an unjustified aggressor. Certainly not by Kenya who through contributing to the African Union force in Somalia are trying to bring peace.

So I say to western governments; get your house in order and deal with the home grown extremists (I don’t just mean islamic either, it could be far-right groups as well). Stop exporting terror.

Live More

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Let the child explore and learn
Let the child explore and learn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many ways to learn, classroom, books, by being shown and the hardest of the lot, through experience.

Experience, life experience – not just the sort of learning you do for educational reasons because you have to go to school or the sort of learning you do because it helps with your career – well that’s the really important kind of learning. That’s life experience, the life you lead teaching you things you didn’t know. Some of the lessons seem hard, cruel even but life is supposed to be hard, its supposed to be difficult; not all the time but some of the time.

The best way of learning is through experience, by living your life to the full you learn. By having new and varied experiences you learn. By failing (I fail plenty by the way) you learn!

You may think that the going is way too tough at times but stick with it, what you learn at the tough times really does make you stronger, honest.

The most important thing is to live as much as you can so that you learn as much as you can.