Air crash investigation

Today an Egypt Air flight went missing on its journey from Paris to Cairo.  We now presume it is in the sea.  “Experts” suspect a terrorist act.  It is unlikely to be a story with a happy ending.  I could go on a rant about terrorism, the pointlessness of causing random death, the theft of lives.  I could, but it would be just as pointless.  It amounts to nothing more than slactivism.

So instead I’ll give you a poem about drowning which I find very funny in a black kind of way.  Life is too short for misery and moaning.  Laughing feels better.  Laugh in adversity.  Laugh at the absurdity of the small mindedness of those who believe that their murder death kill will make any difference to the flight of a swallow.

 

This is a photograph of me: by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
eventually
you will see me.)

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Another Road

Syria Team

Syrian Terror Squad

I can’t let the recent Paris and Belgian terror attacks pass without making some comment.

The seed of French difficulty lies in the Sykes-Pichot agreement after the Great War, when Britain and France carved up the Levant between them.  France took possession of Lebanon and Syria.

Under Turkish Ottoman rule the middle east was stable.  Perhaps not exactly happy, but stable and mostly content.

Since Western powers took control of the Levant the Middle East has been a disaster.  At what stage do Western “Powers” hold up their hands and admit they are unable to achieve anything positive in the region?

Hate causes many problems, but it solves none.  The French solution to the Paris attacks is yet another bombing campaign.  Do they expect that to succeed in stabilizing the region?  Truth is bombing campaigns are a short term solution.  Politicians thrive on short term solutions.  The voting public has no patience for long slow strategies that eventually deliver the desired results.

We, the voters in the democracies of the West are individually and personally responsible for what is happening in Syria.  We have caused the misery and conflict that has fostered the rise of terrorism.  We have raped these countries of their resources.  We heat our homes and fuel our cars with their oil.

Do you want to feel safe from terrorism?  What do you believe will “cure” terrorism?

Option 1: Attacking Syrians and making them poorer, more fearful, killing their children, razing their homes and driving them into refugee camps, or

Option 2:  Rebuilding the Syrian nation, making the economy prosper, raising the standard of living, rehousing the population, building schools and libraries.  Western nations actively buying up the products of Syrian production including their agricultural produce and their industrial output.

Option 1 involves spending a lot of Western money on bombs and missiles which we drop on Syria.  This is good for weapons manufacturers.  They are lobbying for this option by paying lots of money to the “right” political candidates.  It is also good for the rich capitalists who hold shares in the weapons companies.  In Syria it creates a new generation of ‘terrorists’.

Option 2 involves spending Western money too.  But it is actually a whole lot cheaper than option 1.  Unfortunately it delivers no value to the companies who make weapons.  The rich shareholders of the weapons companies see no return.  The money is just ‘wasted’ on a lot of poor Arabs.

People who have jobs, who own their own homes, who have food on the table and who can envisage a future for themselves and their families, those people are not terrorists.  Terrorists are not born, they are created.  We create them when we take their homes, their food, their lives.  If you want to recruit terrorists I suggest you look in a refugee camp.

In the next election, when the candidates come knocking on your door, ask them how they are going to make you safe from terrorism.  Ask them will they choose Option 1 or Option 2.  Let’s take another road.

 

Paris Winter; by Howard Altmann

That we can breathe and not forget
our dreams entirely. In the cold sun

the warmth of timelessness. There is
panic, rest assured, so much beauty

stirring, I want to touch all that
contains me. We know the questions

and the light shifts without a word.
In the clouds, a philosopher’s chair

rocks. In the riverbed, the buff
and lathe of stones, change glistening

past. And from the afternoon, drops
of her monthly blood drip down

the stairs, the kitchen table, all of her
unopened bills, a cold floor that timed

us. O, the ins and outs of memory
breathe, too, images at rest in the dark

chambers, the gilded daylight whir
a heart’s dusting—one walkup,

one post storm quiet blinking at
infinity. Who shot the moon

and claimed victory in the morning?
The constellations touch down;

the years collapse; the boom
and bust of love lowers the crane

at dawn: in what earth, in what sky
will the soul find its keeper?

Winning the war on terror

Improvised British Armoured Car

Improvised British Armoured Car

You cannot win a “war on terror” by military action.  Anyone who believes otherwise should look a the modern history of Ireland.

The Irish people wanted independence from Great Britain.  They moved between violent and political approaches over time.  Ultimately the Irish developed the dual strategy now nicknamed “the bullet and the ballot box”.  the British Empire was at the peak of its powers in the early 20th Century.  Ireland is not a large nation like India.  Ireland is not a powerful nation like the USA.  Ireland is not located far away from the centre of British power, like New Zealand.  Ireland is a small, weak country sitting right in Britains armpit.

Despite holding all the cards the British could not hold Ireland.  They could win every battle but never win the “war”.  The Irish learned that it was foolish to engage in fair fights against the British, so we fought dirty, the guerilla.

The IRA in the 1920’s made it impossible for the British to administer Ireland.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland moved from a guerilla war to a terrorist war.  They fought it on British soil.  It was even dirtier than the guerilla war of the 1920’s. The British evenually learned that they could not win this war.  Every victory they scored against the terrorists was a recruitment drive for the IRA.

The British learned at last that the way to end a war on terror was to build peace.  Engender understanding and respect for your foe, listen to their grievances, right the wrongs and work together to build a better society.

So I was simply astounded yesterday listening to David Cameron crowing like a cock in parliament over the murder of “Jihadi John”.  Simply calling the man by this jingoistic nickname is an indication that the British Government have forgotten all the hard won lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process.

This morning as David Cameron surveys the wreckage of Paris I wonder how bullish he feels about “taking out” Jihadi John?  The important thing here is to take a deep breath and review the situation.

The “war on terror” is going to kill British and French people, and perhaps also Americans and Russians.  You don’t fight a war in Syria.  You care for the Syrian people.  You give them peace and prosperity.  You defend them from violence.  You stop selling them guns and start buying their melons.  You stabilise their economy and give the Syrian people what they want, a safe and comfortable home.  That’s how you defeat terrorism.

Herostratic Fame

Artemis

On this day in 365 BCE the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was destroyed.  It was burned down by an arsonist named Herostratus.

He committed this heinous act in a bid to become immortally famous.

The temple was located in Ephesus (now Efes) in Ionian Greece (now part of Modern Turkey) .  The Ephesians sentenced Herostratus to death, but also passed a greater sentence on him.  They forbade anyone to use is name, on pain of death.  Their intention was to prevent him achieving the very thing that he sought.

Unfortunately the story was recorded by historians and Herostratus won out in the end.  Herostratic fame is “Fame acquired by destructive means”.

In modern society we see many examples.  School shooters are a prime example.  People like Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon and said “The result would be that I would be famous; the result would be that my life would change and I would receive a tremendous amount of attention”.

Terrorism organisations have learned that they can gain notoriety through herostratic acts such that a small terror cell can dominate global media.  ISIS, Al Qaida, Hammas, Hezbollah etc all leverage this dynamic in the Middle East.

Since the destruction of the Temple of Artemis the greatest Herostratic act was the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11.

Ground Zero