In G2 on the 28th July there was an article written by Margaret Owen, head of Widows for Peace through Democracy and a member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee. It began:
“If ever the women of Iraq needed support from the international community, the UN, and in particular, the UK government, it is now.”
As the piece explains, currently Iraq is under an interim constitution called the Transitional Administrative Law (Tal). Women’s groups in Iraq had to fight for this temporary constitution not to include rule 137. Rule 137 is an interpretation of the Qur’an that legalises polygamy; divorce by “talaq” (when a husband only has to say “I divorce you” three times to be divorced); honour killings; and stoning and public beheadings of women for alleged adultery.
Recently released drafts of the intended permanent constitution written by 46 men and 9 women state that the main source of legislation is to be sharia law. Sharia law rules that “personal status” (laws relating to marriage, divorce, custody, widowhood and inheritance) will be determined according to religious sect. This law will take precedence over international law leaving women unprotected by international human rights treaties and conventions, and rendering them subservient to an interpretation of Islamic law that assumes them as nothing more than the property of men.
Women are currently being beaten, raped, abducted and murdered in great numbers by religious extremists running rampant since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Despite this, thousands of women congregated in Bagdad’s Al-Firdaws Square to protest against their exclusion in the draft constitution. They risked their lives to try and ensure that the democracy being touted before their country is not put forever out of their grasp. The bravery that must have taken makes me want to weep.
It is true that there are also women who are demanding that the new laws of their country be dictated by, and only by, the Qur’an. But I stand with the women who want to fully participate in the laws and decision-making of their country, who don’t think they deserve acid thrown in their face because they don’t wear a veil, who believe they have a right to education. Equal rights for women is no longer an untried theory or some sort of liberal utopian desire, it is an accepted and operating state of affairs in many countries and there is no argument against it.
In Victorian Britain science was used to keep the status of women lower than men in just about every domain. If it wasn’t our hysterical wombs, it was our smaller brains, or our fragile dispositions which kept us out of office and without the vote. In Iraq religion is the thing that is being wielded to keep women down. And yet religion is as religion does. Interpretation is all. It is possible to have a constitution which upholds religious law and yet also abides by international human rights legislation. What it is not possible to have is a country that is clutching democracy in one hand whilst holding women down with the other. It is democracy for all, or it is not democracy.
The deadline for the draft of the new constitution is the 15th August. The majority of assembly members have voted for a postponement to completion of the draft due to difficulty at coming to any consensus over such things as woman’s right and the right to life. Margaret Owen however expresses concern that “the Bush administration would clearly like to see all the deadlines, for the constitution, referendum and next election, met so that it can withdraw US troops”
This is why the call for help from the international community, the UN, the UK government, in particular Tony Blair and Jack Straw. The constitution of a country cannot be rushed and it cannot legitimise the subjugation of women.
I would like to help the women of Iraq at this crucial time. I’ll write to Blair, Straw and my MP Clare Short, but God don't you sometimes wish there was something more you could do?
Iraq Constitution. All the information you need.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
In G2 on the 28th July there was an article written by Margaret Owen, head of Widows for Peace through Democracy and a member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee. It began:
Friday, July 29, 2005
This morning with news of the IRA announcement on my mind I played an old Cranberries album, “no need to argue.” I remembered playing it in my old student flat the night the IRA tried to blow up Canary Wharf.
There was a storm that night too if I remember rightly, as there was yesterday. For about an hour yesterday afternoon the sky turned black and the rain came down so thick and hard it was like a hose-pipe was being directed on us from above. I got drenched just popping to the shops, and drove with a view so blurred by the torrent of water that I’m surprised I made it there and back without an accident. It was something so powerful that I found my mobile wouldn’t work. Then all at once it cleared, the sun came out, and it was warm and quiet again. I didn’t know then that just south of here they had actually had a tornado that had ripped through streets and parks demolishing buildings.
Today it is cold and wet. I went to a hospital appointment and had to wait for an hour and a half in a crowded narrow corridor, only to be given news I didn’t want, and to forget to ask the consultant the one question I have been desperate to ask for months.
After the appointment I tried to park at the nearby Post Office to get a new tax disc, something I have been trying to do for a week without success, because none of the three Post Offices I had been to previously do car tax. I had to park in a side street only to have a gang of kids approach my car, one of them carrying a screwdriver. So I drove off lest my car get scratched or I get stabbed in the eye.
On the drive home I listened to radio reports, and heard an anonymous account from someone who did not want the IRA to give up their arms. They seemed as afraid of having violence lifted out of their lives, as I am to have it put in.
I’m a non-smoker but I keep a packet of Silk Cut for days such as this. I was in my back garden having a quiet puff to calm down, when I overheard a conversation between my neighbour and her gardener (well, the man who comes to mow the lawn). He was saying how he couldn’t get to several of his jobs the other day because of police cordons after the arrests, and that he had to go all around the back of Kingsheath. It was America’s fault all this, he said, it was all America’s fault. I was so angry I wanted to shout that NO IT ISN’T followed by a long and protracted lecture on exactly why it wasn’t and whose fault this actually is. Not very British though that sort of thing, although I imagine they do it all the time in France. It was at least a good job he didn’t say it was Tony Blair’s fault or I might have lobbed something over the fence.
Now I’ve got a headache and am minded just to forget about life, put the fire on, and read a nice book. My Yahoo on-line time is running out and I’ve got to wander off into the wilderness until a new month comes to take out this one.
Posted by Helen at 10:13 am
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
I don’t know the Hay Mills and Washwood Heath parts of Birmingham very well, but when the morning news came in of those dawn raids and the arrests Yasin Hassan Omar and his chums, it was all feeling too close to home again.
Later I found out that my uncle George is doing a painting and decorating job in the street next to one of the evacuated roads. At one point the police asked for his step-ladder to look up in the loft of a house, but told him not to worry as it was not related to the ongoing situation. The police do a lot of that I suspect, arrest suicide bombers and then use the opportunity to have a random nose up someone’s loft.
Anyway, evacuated residents were apparently hoarded onto the Asda carpark, and my uncle got chatting to one woman who said she had seen one of the men arrested jumping over a couple of back garden fences before being cornered. Don’t know if this is true mind.
Whilst all of this was going on, I was spending the day having a mosey around Bakewell in Derbyshire. For a small town Bakewell’s got several good bookshops and as many cake shops and bakeries as any decent person could wish for. The threat from terrorism seemed as remote as the moon. It’s hard to feel threatened when you’re drinking tea from a tea-pot in a 17th century house and eating crumpets with melted butter and jam.
Posted by Helen at 4:55 pm
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
As an atheist who often looks on at religion with concerned bemusement, I must admit to a sneaking admiration for the Anglican church. Having got over the shock of ordained women, it is now feeling its way with gays, marriage and sex.
Saying that gay clergy can marry, but not have sex, may seem absurd, but at least this Church is having a go at trying to live in the 21st century. For all the talk recently of the positive aspects of Islam, I can't see female or gay Clerics in the Mosques anytime soon. And I don't see a female or gay Pope in my lifetime either.
Carry on, chaps, carry on.
Posted by Helen at 3:42 pm
Sunday, July 24, 2005
I was reading today about how an innocent young man came to be killed, in front of a cluster of stunned commuters, by those whose job it was to protect him. The more I read, the more I had the creeping sensation that this wasn’t something of our world. So many factors coming together, at just the wrong time, resulting in a tragedy that is too awful. There is something almost primeval about what happened, and how it happened, like it was the sport of cruel and ancient gods.
An address book, a police force roused by the death of innocents, a thick coat worn by a foreigner used to hotter climes, the shadow of failed bombs, the wrong reaction to a shout to stop, a decision made in split-second. The young man from Brazil meets the policeman who pulls the trigger. Someone put that together and it wasn’t anyone human.
January lst year when Britain froze over and came to a virtual standstill for 24 hours, I was involved in a resonating tragedy. A coach got stuck in the ice in central London. All the passengers had to get off. A girl went to the train station, but was directed to the wrong station platform and missed the last train. Drunken men accosted her on the station platform. A smart professional-looking man came to her rescue. She went back with him to his hotel room. He killed her. A girl from America met the man who had gone out that night intent on murder.
I was the one who had to write the coach company’s defence that her murder was not their fault. I managed, I think, not to use the actual words “unfortunate circumstances,” but that was what I tried to impart.
“Unfortunate circumstances” doesn’t cut it though when someone loses their life in such an unfair and monstrous way. It feels like a price must be paid. We don’t know by whom, or how, or to what end, but such a death cannot seemingly pass without retribution. In the case of Mr de Menezes, some are baying for the blood of the police, some say he’s another victim of the 7/7 bombers, some blame Tony Blair and Iraq. We would like this sad loss of life to make a difference somehow, to change something. It should rightly horrify us that it won’t. When the rest of us have moved onto the next chapter in this apocalyptic tale, the de Menezes family will be left with this alone.
The world in which we live has been blasted and the shards are flying everywhere. Hug and kiss those you love tonight, and hold them tight.
Posted by Helen at 8:02 pm
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Large part of Birmingham evacuated again around Snow Hill train station. Man with two suitcases arrested under the Terrorism Act. Possible connections with London incidents. Think things are getting back to normal now.
I want to sweep up all the people I care about who live or work in town, and put them in the War Bunker in my next door neighbour's garden to keep them safe until the police have mopped up this band of loons.
It does seem that having been taken by surprise two weeks ago, the police and special services finally seem to have caught up with things. We can at least hope that they will shut this operation down soon. I'm glad I don't know anyone either in the police or in those other shadowy forces who quietly protect us. Not the safest, least stressful job at the moment.
Posted by Helen at 5:04 am
Friday, July 22, 2005
So how are your nerves today?
I was doing okay until I started to hear on the hourly news of Saga FM (not my choice) that yesterday really was a fuck-up, meaning there are four failed suicide bombers on the loose. I work out in the countryside, but Mr Scribbles, Brother P and assorted friends work in the city and I worry for them. The people I work with don’t let this interest them. It would only register on their personal worry radars if Merry Hill shopping centre was threatened.
Anyway, I’d got my worries under control when news of the shooting in Stockwell tube station came through. A man shot at point blank range in front of a train full of civilians. Can this be happening?
I thought of all those brave souls who were caught up in the bombings two weeks ago, and who still have to use London transport. How this must just feel like a never-ending nightmare.
Driving home I listened to Radio 2 and the guy was interviewing a couple of people who live in Jerusalem. The question was, how do you cope with the constant threat of suicide bombings? The answer seemed to be - you just do.
Then, as I drove down the main artery into town I started to see police, and the closer I got to my house the more police I saw. Police on corners, police outside public buildings, police at the Bus Stop at the end of my road... hang on, the Bus Stop at the end of my road? Fuck! I ran into the house to phone Mr Scribbles. He’d just had lunch and had not seen any police presence in town. The TV was showing the usual daytime drivel, so I turn to the internet. No mention of Birmingham. Just the man in the tube station who was pursued and jumped upon by unmarked policemen who then “unloaded” five bullets into his head.
There’s talk on Europhobia of the shooting involving either the SAS or M16.
Haunted feeling. There’s an unseen battle going on between those trying to kill us and those trying to stop them, and every now and again the fighting breaks through and becomes visible, and ordinary people see things they should not have to see.
My own personal safety alarm is still on level Alert, but I’m trying not to obsess. All day I’ve had that saying in my head – This Too Will Pass.
I’m going down the shops now to buy a newspaper and some tins of cat food. I’m sure the police will have gone by now.
Posted by Helen at 10:53 am
Thursday, July 21, 2005
I am walking through a back alleyway amongst 1950’s office blocks somewhere in London. My boyfriend Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, is with me, and up ahead is Tony Blair. We are all coming back from lunch I think, but Gordon and I make no effort to catch up with Tony. Suddenly I see Tony throw something into a wheely-bin, some papers perhaps, before entering a building. Gordon rushes up to the wheely-bin, grabs a can of petrol, pours it into the bin and then sets it alight. I’m a bit surprised at Gordon’s behaviour, but mostly thrilled to be going out with such a maverick kind of guy. Gordon and I then enter the same building as Tony, and Gordon introduces me to the security guard on reception.
I am in a small farm courtyard. A pig is going mad. The pig is about the size of a grizzly bear and is rearing up on his hind feet just like one. I get trapped in a bike-shed. The pig grabs a young man and starts swinging him violently about and smashing his head around. In front of me is the huge pink wobbly belly of the pig, and I can feel the vibration every time the man gets smashed into the bike-shed. People are standing around watching, doing nothing. I cannot get out of the bike-shed and I cannot help the man. I’m screaming at people to help the man, but they won’t. I realise that when the bear-pig has killed the man, then he will get me, and no one will help me either. So I pick up a nearby plank and begin smashing it into the belly of the pig. The pig reels at my plank attack and before you know it I am battering him down to the floor. I think I kill him. I am in a kitchen drinking tea, telling the people who had just stood around and watched the pig-bear go mad, that you cannot let capitalist pigs go rampant; you have to stand up to them.
I’m in a crowd milling around in a school playground. Rumours start to circulate that we are all here because of a Ruth Kelly directive. Everyone now has to attend school regardless of age. I’m not very happy about it, but I go into the school to try and figure out which class I am supposed to be attending. The school changes into my old university. I am a fresher again, I don’t know where anything is, and I don’t know what to do. The corridors are crowded with people in work suits. I find a timetable and realise that I have been scheduled for the sex education class. Some mistake surely? There’s nothing anybody could teach me about sex, and I tell several people around me just that. I wander along until I find a classroom full of teenage boys in school uniforms. It’s the sex education class. It’s quite a pleasant room with lofty windows pouring in light and big large sofas. I settle in one of the sofas, in between two boys, ready to see what I can learn.
Too much wine or too much politics do you think?
Posted by Helen at 2:19 pm
I took my mom to lunch and we visited a falconry centre.
I went for an x-ray and was in and out of the hospital within fifteen minutes. It took me longer to walk from the carpark to the x-ray department than it did to actually have the x-ray.
Some cricket match on that everybody keeps talking about.
Shit terrorist attack. Londoners raise eyebrows and tut.
Posted by Helen at 2:11 pm
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Just been to see "War of the Worlds" with my cinema club consisting of Mr Scribbles, Brother P, and Pops. We gang together and go and see all the gung-ho stuff.
I'm not good with disaster movies these days. I used to especially like all the 'terror comes to small town,' films, but not anymore. I found this movie particularly uncomfortable because Spielberg was obviously keen to allude to the known images and existent fears of a modern audience. And he didn't need to guess how people would react when the normal twists into grotesque, because we know how, we've witnessed it.
Anyway, I've got a rampant imagination and fall into films quite easily as long as they are well handled. I found myself clinging to the obvious Spielberg moments which I found a comfort, but the rest of it was nightmare layered upon nightmare. It still feels slightly wrong to me to watch a film about death and destruction when there is enough of that going on for real. I would have been glad to come out of the cinema, but for the fact that we exited outside the road that was evacuated the other Saturday night. Found myself just wanting to crawl into my house.
Back in my own small town I feel slightly sick and edgy, but I think that's because I ate my tea too quickly before I came out. Might have a glass of chilled Chardonnay to see me to bed
Posted by Helen at 7:11 pm
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Posted by Helen at 5:53 pm
On the 8 July I posted, "I Know Who Did This," about Tariq Ali writing in the Guardian.
Much attention in the blogosphere is now being concentrated on Guardian trainee journalist Dilpazier Aslam.
See especially The Daily Ablution.
Aslam has links with Hizb'ut Tahrir, an Islamic fascist organisation that amongst other things calls for suicide bombers and for Muslims to kill Jewish people. As it turns out they had a hand in the Shabina Begum case, which Aslam wrote about for the Guardian. (More on this at Harry's Place)
I suppose you could argue that this is the duty of the free press, to give balanced reporting. Do you think then they'll be asking Nick Griffen to do an article anytime soon?
No. It would not be acceptable to give legitamacy to his words. And neither is it acceptable to give it to the words of Hizb'ut Tahir or anyone associated with them. There is no acceptable face of Fascism.
I'd feel less grubby reading The Sun at the moment.
From The Independent website:
“It is understood that staff at The Guardian were unaware that Mr Aslam was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir until allegations surfaced on "The Daily Ablution" a blog run by Scott Burgess. Speculation is mounting that it may have been a sting by Hizb ut-Tahrir to infiltrate the mainstream media.”
"Late on Friday The Guardian released a statement to The Independent on Sunday saying: "Dilpazier Aslam is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organisation which is legal in this country. We are keeping the matter under review." The paper refused to comment further."
One - Don't The Guardian check people out before they allow them a free hand all over their paper?
Two - Do you think they'll at least have a think from now on before allowing vaguely insidious pieces of writing to be printed.
Three - Do you think they'll be less sniffy of bloggers now they've been mauled by one?
Posted by Helen at 11:31 am
Monday, July 18, 2005
Sunday, July 17, 2005
There are two distinct camps in the political blogosphere.
There are the pseudo-left apologists and the pro-democracy allies.
Each camp has a head spokesman. The pseudo-left apologists have George Galloway with his swamp that must be drained, and the pro-democracy allies have Christopher Hitchens and his cravasse of no return.
I've spent some of my weekend ping-ponging back and forth between blogs of the Swampies and the Crevasses, with bloggers dedicating posts to debunking other blogger's posts, and rolls of comments where more Swampies and Crevasses slug it out, nobody changing anyone's mind, nobody giving an inch.
I was thinking that what we could really do with is one arena, so that both camps can compete head-on in order to see whose arguments are the strongest. We could do with a blog called something like, "Where Swamp and Crevasse meet," with the tag-line of, erm, "is pulling the plug enough, or do some people just need to be pushed down a great big gaping hole?"
Imagine the debates:
"We should pull out of Iraq and forget this silly democracy rubbish. Discuss."
"What might be the advantages of living under a Caliphate?"
"Terrorists, bombers, Jihadists, al-Qaeda, Islamic militants, insurgents, freedom fighters, fluffy bunnies - what term do I use in order not to commit a faux pas when talking about those who would butcher random civilians?"
"The West is responsible for everything that has ever gone wrong ever."
"Blair was too easily persuaded by Bush to go into Iraq."
"Blair is a stubborn arrogant bastard who won't listen to a single soul on the planet."
You get the drift?
I think it could be quite good. Perhaps by placing different arguments side by side a few things might just become apparent, like, who you would rather stand next to - a drink-soaked ex-trotskyite popinjay, or a cigar-smoking ex-Stalinist dictator-propping Jihad-supporting crap MP of a militant-Islamic hugging faux-political party?
Posted by Helen at 3:33 pm
Saturday, July 16, 2005
noun 1 a person filled with excessive zeal, especially for an extreme political or religious cause. 2 informal a person with an obsessive enthusiasm for a pastime or hobby.
adjective filled with or expressing excessive zeal.
Talk Politics imparts great sense in his excellent post; "But they are not like us, are they?" about the London bombers.
I've never been fanatical about anything. Worryingly obsessive about a few things maybe, but not fanatical. The closest I ever came to it was perhaps when I found out what we did to farm animals and what happened in slaughterhouses and vivisection labs. It felt like I'd been lied to, like I'd been living in a different world to the one I thought I had. All that cruelty going on around me and I'd had no idea. I wanted to go up to people in the street and ask them if they knew what we were doing to defenceless creatures in the name of food and science. had an irrisistable urge, and felt and overwhelming sense of duty, to spread the word and make change.
On some level though I always knew that my awareness had been temporarily kidnapped and that normal thinking would resume eventually. Therefore I always kept a check on myself. I didn't preach to anybody and I didn't get involved in anything illegal, although I did do some protesting. I still campaign, I don't eat meat, and I can match you on any argument on animal welfare issues - but I no longer gasp with shock and horror when my husband makes himself a hamburger.
Imagine adding to such a massive viewpoint shift religious fervour, a God, and a band of authoritarian international conspirators urging legitamcay of the cause - bloody hell that's a powerful mix.
Yesterday I posted about Meadows hoping he was experiencing some of the crushing emotions that the familes he had helped to wrongfully convict had experienced. Perhaps it was vindictiveness, or perhaps it was the belief that if someone is made to understand just what their victims went through that it will lead to understanding, pity, and finally remorse.
Though the GMC has struck him off, so far Meadows is showing no signs at all of remorse and you have to wonder if he ever will. How painful would it be to have to undo all your thinking and to admit that you were wrong and therefore culpable for so much damage. Like a Chinese woman with crushed and bound feet, better to stay wrapped up than to endure the agony of unravelling the bandage.
Fanatics cannot feel remorse, because they simply cannot ever question their actions.
Meadows was obviously fanatical about his work, never doubting himself for a moment, but where were the checks to keep someone like him in place? The Law society and the GMC are looking to themselves to determine how this happened and do all that is necessary to stop it from happening again, and there are parallels here with how the Muslim community is dealing with its own fanatics. There is no more need for any Muslim or for the Muslim community in general to accept fault for the London bombings, just as there is no need for any pediatrician or for the medical profession in general to accept fault for Meadows. But in both cases, the worst thing was able to happen, and there are matters that must be remedied.
I felt a vague sense of disgust on seeing the faces and hearing the actual names of the London bombers. Any sense of anger towards them appears to have gone now they have become individuals. They seem to me to have been deeply sick individuals with a frightening, almost inhuman ability to decieve. My rage is for the bank-rollers, the organisers, all those who sit and plan how to harm others because of the status it affords them and the sense of satisfaction they get.
Another victim of the bombings died last night. There are more deaths in Iraq today. I find my heart heavy for people I never met.
Posted by Helen at 11:19 am
Friday, July 15, 2005
Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
And solid pudding against empty praise.
Now, Scribbles doesn't think of herself as a vindictive person, but right now, as Sir Roy Meadows awaits his verdict, I cannot help hoping that he is experiencing some of the fear, shock and horror that the familes must have felt when he smashed them apart with his big ego.
Posted by Helen at 9:11 am
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Humans are very good at lazy thinking.
When Bush jnr was first elected we criticised him because of his intent to withdraw from the international community. Then there were the September 11th attacks and we wagged our fingers at the US because it had known of the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and had done nothing.
So then the US saw the world in a different light and decided not to withdraw from the international community anymore. It cleared Afghanistan of the training camps and decided to call time on Iraq, who had been putting two fingers up to the UN for years. Then we criticised the US because it was interfering too much internationally, but didn’t criticise Bin laden for making it so.
For years we had condemned the sanctions against Iraq because it harmed not the heads of state, but caused much suffering to the people. Then when military action was being mooted, we said that the UN “containment” had been working.
So, the international community went into Iraq and after the initial ease of success in toppling the regime of a murderous dictator, the thing becomes a mess. Our armies commit human right offences, our secret services disgust us in gaining information via torture, our governments shame us by imprisoning people without trail. We are degraded.
And we watch mortified as the death toll in Iraq rises as the months and years go by. And because we do not feel that we have been true to ourselves, we take on all the blame. The people, the insurgents, who disrupt the electricity, water and food supplies, the ones who strap explosives to themselves and blow up Iraqis standing in bus stops or shopping in markets, we don’t think it’s their fault. It’s our fault they commit indiscriminate murder. We are invaders and they are freedom fighters.
Yet when the international community say that they are trying to bring freedom to Iraq, they are derided and told freedom can’t come to those who have been killed.
We point the finger angrily at Bush and Blair and shout at them that they are war criminals, but the silence surrounding the crimes against humanity that Saddam Hussein committed is deafening.
And all the while we were claiming that Bush and Blair invented an enemy because they wanted to get a hand-grab in a country with oil, and saying we won’t be attacked because there is no enemy to attack us.
Then London gets attacked. Our lazy thinking reaches a shocking crescendo. We say we made ourselves a target because we went into Iraq. Or, in a slightly watered down version, we say that al-Qaeda are using the fact that we went into Iraq as justification for the bombings, even though there is no justification for what happened. Either way the sentiment is the same – we had it coming.
We must be forever vigilant of our own actions, but we must now stop this ridiculous fluffy kitten view of the world that everyone is nice but us. There are individuals out there who have signed up to a jihad against us, and we can no longer stand with our backs turned to them whilst we shout and jeer at our own leaders in the other direction. It is dangerous. We can’t afford to collapse into a pile of angst and self-recrimination, whilst brainwashed young men are running around making bombs with which to kill us.
I may be wrong, but I sense that the anger caused by the London bombings may finally be shaking us out of our hypnotic state. Now our senses have been roused we must stop the lazy thinking, and just damn well think. We know already that we have a fight on our hands against the racist who would use this attack to harm Muslims, but to do that affectively we have to face up to a few things. We have to accept that the fact that the people who did this were born here and walked amongst us will have a massive affect on the country’s psyche. We may condemn those who are looking at Muslims differently today, but we have to do more than simply denounce them because that will achieve nothing except rouse them to further resentment.
Blaming ourselves, both historically and morally, will also feed this resentment. Every time someone says the London bombings were our fault, the further the umbrage is pumped of those who would blame Islam. We have to be smarter than that. The Muslim community needs not just to condemn these attacks and bewail the fact that this will make them targets for racists, but to fight against those in their midst who have turned to this darkness, and just as importantly BE SEEN TO BE DOING IT.
This is the only way that we can remain peacefully integrated. There will be people who inevitably blame Muslims for the violence, and there will be Muslims who inevitably blame the west. Let’s not squander anymore airtime keep pointing this out to one and other, even if it is to condemn it. Let’s unite instead in our condemnation of a common enemy and use our free press to push that message time and time again.
We all know that this is not a Christian v Muslim war, much as the Jihadists would like us all to think it is. The front-line is between those of us who want to live in peace in a democratic, free country, and those who have been sickened in the mind by a set of rich, egotistical criminals. Now, let’s stop thinking of it in any other terms.
Obviously doesn't get it. You know they are desperate when they huddle up to Gorgeous George.
Refreshing and helpful.
Who'd have thought that The Sun would have been the voice of reason?
Posted by Helen at 8:37 am
Monday, July 11, 2005
I spent the afternoon reading George Orwell, with a glass of Bordeaux, sitting in my romantically neglected English garden. I wore SHORTS and a STRAPPY TOP.
Then a female friend came over, UNCHAPERONED, and we ate TOFFEE FUDGE CAKE and had a laugh without any MEN watching us. She's now gone off with some MALE FRIENDS to EAT OUT IN PUBLIC WITH MAKE-UP ON.
Now I am drinking CHARDONNAY whilst making nonsense comments on blogs because I like to EXPRESS MY OPINIONS.
I have a day off tomorrow and will do WHAT THE HELL I LIKE. Albeit with a hangover.
Ha ha hee ha ha. Ain't no way you can win bobba... Choke on it...............
Posted by Helen at 3:16 pm
Talk today about how to come to terms with what happened in London last week.
As most of us determine to show no fear, there will be some people who have a long way to go yet before they can do that. People who were directly caught up in this, who were hurt or who saw things that no person should have to see. Others who came close to it, possibly without realising it at first, now knowing that twenty minutes either way and it might have been them.
I thought of all of you who had to go into London today.
For the rest of us, particularly Brummies who felt the point of a finger on Saturday night, we too have a journey to go on. The enemy has become real. There will be no massive shift in psyche as happened after September 11th, but our idea of truth has shifted a bit and we have to reorient ourselves.
I mentioned I was in Manhatten at the time of the Twin Towers attacks. Mr Scribble and I were amongst the last handful of tourists on the open top of the north tower. We watched a storm sweep in over Staten Island and were made to come down off the top for safety reasons as a strong wind whipped up. The same time next day the place didn’t exist. The windows we had looked out of, the hand rails we had gripped, the elevators we had kissed in, the gift shop we had bought things from, the cinema we had held hands in, all gone. All rubble.
We had been on holiday one day, were in a war zone the next.
I have never revisited in my mind those apocalyptic days that followed. I’ve packed it all up and put it away. It’s too painful. But sometimes the memories seep into my dreams and sometimes they grab me as they did on Thursday.
For months after coming back from New York I searched for normality, or as the Americans called it, normalicy. I’ve heard that mentioned today. It is natural to long for a time when the attacks aren’t mentioned all the time, when you think of other things, when the Bad Thing That Happened is a part of the past. I wanted my heart not to race when I heard police sirens, not to feel panic when I heard an aeroplane go over head, not to have flashbacks when I looked at tall buildings. I wanted to be able to sleep properly again, not to feel so angry all the time, not to want to punch people’s lights out when they uttered platitudes about the US getting its just deserts.
The experience did change me. I don’t want to ever be stranded in a foreign country again and so prefer to holiday in Britain. I can’t watch disaster movies anymore. I am better informed about world events. I’m less materialistic. I kiss my husband goodbye every morning no matter how late I am running. I don’t go up into tall buildings if I can help it.
But the strangest thing was the realisation of the power of comedy. Yes, really. After New York I was hit as if by grief. I couldn’t laugh or enjoy myself and I was plagued by this terrible sense of doom. Then one night I watched The Frank Skinner Show where he did a take-off of “You’ve been Framed” and called it “You’ve Bin Laden.” He showed amateur footage of (a man dressed as) Bin Laden tripping over his robes and falling down stairs at weddings and so forth. I cried with laughter. It kept me amused for days. Frank Skinner popped my bubble of despair and showed me how to laugh at those bastards. From then on I got better.
We have to take these dangerous people seriously, but it doesn't mean that we can't take the piss out of them.
For all those people who were too close to this thing on Thursday, one day a Frank Skinner moment will happen to you. Until then, good luck with your journey.
Posted by Helen at 10:19 am
Sunday, July 10, 2005
I didn’t sleep much last night.
Not long after my last post, I got a return call from a friend who had been evacuated from the city centre. I knew Sarah was out that night with the usual bunch of reprobates because I was supposed to be out with her, but lack of money, a weekend shift, and a bit of luck conspired to keep me away.
There is nothing else that feels like that cold sliver of fear when you think the ones you care about might be in danger. I was very glad to speak to her and a couple of other people that night, but it soon became apparent that unlike on Thursday when I could do nothing but watch in distress, I might actually be useful this time. Sarah lives in the city centre and wasn’t being allowed back to her flat, “Could she be really cheeky,” she said all cute, “and stop at yours tonight? Oh and can you pick us up too?”
I took the back way around the city centre and parked as close to where she had been evacuated as I could. Despite the mass evacuation of 20,000 people, the streets were eerily quiet and devoid of traffic; the people softly drifting along like droves of rain. There were police vans and cars aplenty. Their sirens were silenced, but their lights, flashing like the colours of a dangerous animal, warned of danger.
Sarah and her appropriately named friend, Sarah, had a long walk, but with the use of our mobile phones we finally met up, and I whisked them both off to safety feeling a bit like a mother hen taking chicks under her wing.
What they experienced has been reported fairly by the media. There was an initial pounce by police, piling into pubs and restaurants checking people out, but no evacuation, but then something happened, or someone made a different decision, and alarms, speakers, and police, echoed through the city telling everyone to get out. There was no panic, and I believe the name Dunkirk came up more than once, as well it might.
Terrorists have been to Birmingham before of course. In November, 1974, members of the IRA sat drinking in pubs packed with brummies spending their end of week wages. They left leaving behind timed explosives. 21 people were killed and 182 were injured. Before London it was the worst terrorist attack Britain had experienced. The so-called cause of the terrorist has changed, but in the end they are all the same.
Driving back to my house we past a couple of revellers who had obviously been down in Hurst Street (the gay quarter), trudging wearily along in their rubber suits. I have been stuck in work again for most of today, but have heard radio reports of theatre and wedding parties converging in the McDonalds on Pershore Road, actors in their costumes and brides in their wedding dresses, all being roused into song to cheer each other along.
When we got back from town I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. For reasons that I don’t quite understand I wanted to come back into the blogosphere. Perhaps it's because there are no bombs here. My husband however was out like a light and I didn’t want to disturb everyone in the house. It was late and knowing that I had work the next day I tried to rest. I knew however that I was battling against a mind that was refusing to be switched off. I was in Manhattan when the September 11th attacks took place and for six months after coming back my mind refused to be taken off Red Alert, even at night. I have never suffered insomnia before or since that time, but I did again last night.
Sometimes they feel close, these silent enemies. Last night they snuck past the medium of TV and internet, and came whispering right in my ear. I know that what I have to do now, what we all have to do, is not walk around flinching poised for the next punch. I lived that way for some time after New York and it is not really living.
Posted by Helen at 12:12 pm
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Central Birmingham is being evacuated.
My brother lives close to the central area and has heard controlled explosions go off. No one has been hurt and my instincts tell me this is really nothing to do with AQ. I suppose we are going to have to put up with such disruption for a while. No big deal as long as no one is harmed.
I don't live far away from the city centre either and was in town this afternoon. The place was bathed in sunshine and full of crowds enjoying the dragon boat events, our own version of the "London Eye," and a few beers. I thought it was an excellent "fuck you" to the terrorists. I was thinking that if I were a millionaire I would buy a round of drinks for everyone in Brindley Place.
Imagine how I felt when I saw this over at Europhobia then! A protest to say an official "fuck you" and the chance to buy the good people of London some beers!
The collective consciousness is a wonderful thing.
And so is the blogosphere. The Dead Tree Press are quite sniffy, and the TV news is so far totally ignorant about the political wing of this strange media, but I know where I went after I realised what was happening in London.
I have to go off again now and just make sure that my city really is safe.
Posted by Helen at 6:32 pm
Friday, July 08, 2005
"The principal cause of this violence is the violence being inflicted on the people of the Muslim world. And unless this is recognised, the horrors will continue."
So says Tariq Ali in today's Guardian.
Is that a threat do you think?
Perhaps not, but i'll tell you what it definitely is. It is a big pile of wank. Yesterday's butchery was not carried out by Muslims on behalf of Muslims. It was carried about by a bunch of empty-hearted despicables who are slaves to a mass delusional organisation that calls itself Al-Qaeda, which is a band of macho soulless relics left over from the fight to push the Russians out of Afghanistan, who now find themselves with nothing else better to do than invent some pointless war against the west.
A bit like how, now the fight is near to closing, the IRA find themselves robbing banks and covering-up murders in pubs, Bin Laden et al needed their Jihad to fill the gaping hole left after their fight with Russia ended. Billions in the bank, armed to the teeth (thanks to the CIA), and with unconventional CVs, what else could these people do to fill in their time?
Well, I suppose they could use their billions and the time they have on their hands to help "the people of the Muslim world." Or they could just recruit criminals and lost souls to kill and maim random civilians. Tough choice.
But some misguided self-flagellating individuals seem determined to blame anybody but these billionaires and their vacuous autotrons for the carnage yesterday.
George Galloway must have been pissing his pants when he heard what had happened. He was certainly quick to get himself all over the media yesterday, wagging his finger, saying I told you that going into Iraq would make us a target. And he's not the only one who thinks that the people killed, injured and emotionally damaged by events yesterday had it coming to them. I've read the same sort of stuff in the blogosphere and heard it on Radio phone-ins. All these people share the same mentality as a battered wife... It's my fault he hits me, I make his tea too hot/I talk too much/I irritate him. If only I could just do everything perfect then I wouldn't have to suffer pain... And so is the thinking of the Galloways of this world. If only we could curl ourselves up into a tight little ball, stop being part of the world, do nothing, then they might leave us alone.
What would you have us do? Not have gone into Afghanistan and Iraq? Okay. But that would not be enough. They'd still have bombed us because they hate us because we are liberal and free citizens. So, for them to really leave us alone, we'd have to become what they want us to be. You want that? Forced religion, no parliament, burkas, no freedom of speech? Well of course you do, because if we make ourselves into exactly what they want us to be then there will be no more bombs.
As we told the Nazis 60 years ago who thought we'd all be better off doing things their way - Fuck off.
You cannot remove Islam from Al-Qeada because the war they are fighting, unlike with the IRA who we fighting for the political aim of a united Ireland, is spun from a religious motive. But you can remove the Muslim majority from these faceless, dangerous individuals, and I have no doubt that there will not be a backlash against the Muslim community in Britain bar a few isolated incidents committed by those with an already hard-wired bigoted attitude.
But exactly as we should not judge all those who practice the Islamic faith by the acts of these terrorists, neither should the rest of the western world be judged by a few hard-line racists.
We'll be alright. Terrorists crashed into the lives of a few thousand people yesterday, but the billions of us who were not touched will help all those affected whilst we get on with things as usual. We all have something to say about global events, but the vast swathe of us around this planet are all mercy to the rules and whims of others, and it is always us that suffer the most. It will always be us and them. So don't try and put a divide between me and my Muslim sisters and brothers Tariq Ali. Because in doing so you make yourself one of them.
Posted by Helen at 9:03 am
Thursday, July 07, 2005
So, you've finally come.
Was it you I met in New York that time? Perhaps. You are all the same to me.
I've been watching the results of your visit to London for hours. You've taken many of us and you've hurt plenty more. I've been in tears today seeing what you have done.
I wonder how you have spent the day. I can't even begin to guess what you do when you've done something like this. Phone your mates? Go down the pub? Pray?
I suppose you want us to dissolve into a mess of self-recrimination, retaliation, and in-fighting. Become fireballs of religious hatred. Fall into a disgusting show of lynch mob mentality and damn ourselves with bitterness and hatred.
Um. Not really us.
London has survived fire, plague, the Nazis, and the IRA. What on earth made you think that snivelling little shits like you could could even make a dent in this great city of ours? You want us to burn from fear and panic? Get over yourselves you pompous, soulless, pieces of crap. You've stopped nothing, changed nothing, achieved nothing. We are already back on the tubes and the buses. Just watch how we carry on tomorrow.
You came with hatred and we have responded with an outpouring of love. We care more about those you have harmed than we care about getting even.
You've done your worst. It was shit. Now leave us alone. We want to grieve for our dead.
Posted by Helen at 5:11 pm
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
I know those of us outside of London hate the place. I know there is talk of costs, and bad planning, and higher taxes. I know there is doubt over the city's infrastructure. I know not everyone likes sport. I know there is a chance we might mess up and embarrass ourselves.
It's a good thing isn't it? To have been chosen? And to have been chosen for vision and enthusiasm over France's more technically competent bid. Just at the moment the idea seems to be spilling over with promise. I know some people are kindly taking the trouble to point out that they don't care, but just at the moment, I do.
Just think. 2012. We'll all be seven years older. The London Olympics will take place just before my 40th birthday - how old will you be then? I'm wondering whether I will get to watch anything live, will I have children by then to watch it with me, will I still be living here?
And I heard on a news report that this is a kick in the teeth for France because their economy is in decline and they have 10% unemployment, and that this was needed to help the country's morale. The news anchorman said that the French are looking over the water at our little island and seeing a dynamic country that is achieving things and wondering what they are doing wrong. Does this not tell us something? Do any of us see our own country in this way? Do any of us stop to think that beyond all the disillusionment with politics, beyond the stories of feral children and teenage pregnancies, beyond the idea that Europe and all Muslim countries hates us, that actually there is a lot right about this country?
Look at the ridiculousness that has become the protests outside of Gleneagles. I understand the ones who are marching in support of the aims of this summit, but I don't get the others, the anti G8ers, the anti-capitalists, the anti-Blairs, the ones who want to break into Gleneagles to "protest". Protest against what exactly? Protest against the fact that the eight men are there to talk about what they can do for Africa and for the environment? I think we can do without those sort of protests. How about applauding our Prime Minister, yes, actually applauding our Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair MP, for choosing these two issues for the summit, and how about admiring the fact that Blair has actually ENCOURAGED this weeks big events because he ACTUALLY BELIEVES in their message and their aims?
Are you not proud of that?
It's the anniversary of the end of World War Two. Look at the battle we had 60 years ago, think how easy it would have been to have surrendered, imagine what would have happened if we hadn't have thrown everything we had at the Nazis. Let's do it again. Let's not talk of defeat, let's not be cynical, let's not care. Let's throw everything we have at Africa, at the issue of climate change, at everything, at the world, and let's be the great nation we know we are. Fuck it. What have we got to lose?
Posted by Helen at 5:19 pm
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
I don't normally do this sort of stuff, but I'm ill and bored.
I see I'm full of Charity, Fortitude and Justice, but a little short on Faith and Hope. That'd be about right.
You scored as Charity. Charity - with you is the love that lifts the spirits of the world.
Seven Heavenly Virtues
Posted by Helen at 12:30 pm
Monday, July 04, 2005
Sunday, July 03, 2005
I watched Live 8. I only tuned in by accident when I came home from work, but I heard that Maccas was doing SPLHC with U2 and I thought, "I'll just see this, watch enough to prove to myself that the whole event is morally wrong, then go shopping."
As I watched I was surprised and unprepared for the emotion I felt at the U2 set, followed by the unfairly talented Coldplay. The songs they played took on a new meaning that almost took the breath away. As the whole thing unfolded I began to feel angry at my own cynicism and ashamed at my lack of priorities over the event
Not that all of it worked. The Fern Cotton bits were sometimes excruciating. It wasn't her fault, it was just that her bits were out of place. And there really are only ever so many times that you can hear the words "unbelievable" and "amazing" without wanting to hack your own ears off. There was a fair bit of "I'll just play you my new song" self-promotion too which was annoying, and lovely as he is to look at, I really don't need Brad Pitt to come on and tell me about need and want in the world. Nor Will Smith. Nor David Beckham.
Also people were very "on message." At first this message impressed me - we, the performers, are here to help you, the wider public, get your voice heard. There was a lot of sense in that, but it was trotted out like New Labour repeat Alastair Campbell soundbites. I was left wondering that if the Iraq war had never happened, or if WMD had been found there, whether or not there would have been a call for intervention in Zimbabwe. But removing vile monstrous dictators is out of vogue at the moment
But on the whole the thing was very powerful with some incredible moments. Moments that will stay with me. Moments I hoped were watched by those eight men in suits. When we were shown a video of an emancipated child minutes from death and then introduced to the beautiful young woman she has been allowed to become, I felt humbled beyond description. As she stood there on that stage and Bob G said, "Don't let them tell you that this doesn't work," I thought I might lay down my life for the man.
And I think that we can all only hope that the G8 lot were watching Sting sing a version of "I'll be watching you." There was an overwhelming sense then that these men must be compelled to do what is right.
I watched until the end, I signed the on-line petition, and if there was any way I could get up to Edinburgh next week I would go.
I am shocked at my own volte face. Some of it has to do with songs. Here we had (mostly) talented musicians performing incredible work that had been born from true emotion. I don't underestimate the talent it takes to be able to catch human experience in music. But some of it has to do with the attacks on the cynics and those who would do nothing because it is too difficult, or say it won't work, or think it's someone else's problem. Does anyone else have a better idea? I do not want to be standing shoulder to shoulder with those who have no compassion, or who are too lazy to care, or who are only interested in buying things and going on holiday.
Once, I took in a petition to my old place of work. I offered it to some colleagues to sign and they did with enthusiasm, so I put the petition in the Rest Room with a pen for anybody else to sign if they wished. By the end on the week no one had. So I took the petition around the building and asked each person whether they thought this thing was right or wrong, and if they thought it was wrong then to add their signature. Every single person signed.
People will admit to knowing the difference between right and wrong when challenged. I think what Geldof has done is to confront the world and ask, "Is it right or wrong that millions die in Africa of want and need when we can do something to stop it?" And the world replied, "It's wrong."
Now we have to see how those eight men reply.
Posted by Helen at 12:22 pm