Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Woken by the 6:00 news as usual. Just one story: an explosion in a Manchester night club; Police say it is a terrorist bomb; grandparent in hospital with shrapnel wounds; children killed; people running, screaming, panicking, crying; the election suspended by all parties.

Stupid: the media reporting it as terrorism before it is confirmed. Exaggerating the known facts to sell news. They make things worse when they do this.

Stupid: the reporting of screaming, crying and panicking. Mobile phone footage on the main story site taken by some bloke outside the venue running away showing other people running away. Rather outweighs the other footage taken inside of an orderly evacuation. But it’s a funny kind of panic where someone gets their phone out to record themselves running down the street. Not the most useful evidence for the facts. But it does help create the moral panic – well done BBC for playing into the hands of those who want chaos.

(It probably is just random that the stories next to the video of the explosion are “Muslim comedian who sat next to a Trump” – omigod how did Trump survive? – and “The mysterious case of the missing Briton”.)

Stupid: a quote from every major political party – provided between the night-time explosion and available for broadcast by 6a.m. to say they are suspending election activity because of the blast. Well done, you’ve done the terrorist’s work for them, even if it turns out not to be a terrorist attack. You’ve stopped the election activity. So the government has ceased, democracy has ceased, you’ve added to the moral panic and the terrorists just won.

Every party that has done this is not fit to run a multi-racial, multi-religion country with a history of empire and links to the rest of the world and that likes to think it can stand on the world stage giving opinions based on centuries of experience.

Whatever happened to “starve them of the oxygen of publicity”?

Yes, it probably was a terrorist attack. Yes, it is appalling. Yes, it is pathetic they targeted teenage girls. I get all that. But I do not get the response. When did we become so frightened?

So, having written this rant, I shall finish my cup of tea, get dressed and go to work. I shall continue to talk to people and, more importantly, listen to people who have different opinions from mine, then try to discuss them in an open and friendly fashion, exploring differences and celebrating the things we have in common. As a citizen, that is how to combat terrorism. Not falling for the media- and political-party inspired fear and division that serves their ends but makes life more miserable.

Go and make a new friend today. Or at least, reach out to someone and say “Hi!”. Or just give a stranger a smile.

Make tea, not trouble.

Keep calm and carry on.

The Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict

I noticed this on the 1974 entry on Wikipedia’s page Timeline of women’s legal rights (other than voting):

Article 1 of the declaration specifically prohibits bombing of civilian populations.

Article 5 of the declaration requires countries to recognise the destruction of dwellings as a criminal act.

This applies to all member states of the United Nations and has since 1974.

Think on that when you see news stories of wedding parties being hit by drones or see destroyed apartment blocks and homes in the Middle East.

If these are war crimes, who are the criminals and where are the trials?

Lest we forget

An exchange on an Open University forum.

Fast Forward

 ‘Named, unnamed. Remembered, forgotten. They all did that trick the dead do. Whether they died immediately, more or less immediately or later, they all did that trick. From living human being to corpse – the fastest transition in the world.’
(Robert Mc Liam Wilson, Eureka Street)

As I lie here
crimson rivers stream by
painting obscene pictures on my brain.

Beside me
half a young man’s face, open minded, sanguine
looks on. He was smiling

when he ceased to exist.
That girl has something recognisably human about her meat,
others have been blown entirely to bits,

soft unresisting flesh to be scraped up and shovelled
into plastic bags. Cajun dust settles on carnage.
Does a meld of politics ordnance and circumstance

explain all this? In the aeons after the blast
in the ringing piercing silence
in my head, I hear distant white coated voices,

‘Treat only those you think you can save,’
as the last sigh of life escapes my torn lips
unheard; the fastest transition in the world.

Sheena Bradley, 2012

Me: Lest we forget.

Sheena: Do you think there might ever be a time, a decade or a century when there is even a slight chance we could forget? I doubt it.

Me: There’s always hope.

I’m aware “Lest we forget” has different meanings to different people and in different contexts.  With hindsight, it was an inappropriate response to your post, Sheena, and I’m sorry I made it.  I was thinking of the Great War, not the Troubles.

For me, “Lest we forget” means “never forget the suffering we bring upon ourselves by blindly following orders to subject others to violence”.

For others it seems to mean “Never forget what sacrifices others have made for you, so be prepared to make sacrifices for them”.  There “Lest we forget” is used to promote what was Veterans’ Day and is now Armed Forces Day – but why don’t we also celebrate Peace Day with parades and banners?  There’s money and street closures made available to celebrate the military, but why not the Fire Brigade too, for example – they also put their lives on the line for us and they do it more often – what makes the military so different?  I’m coming round to the way of thinking of Forces Watch, that such events are the marketing activities of the arms industry, making killing palatable and something to be proud of.  And that way of thinking leads to “Lest we forget” meaning a demand for patriotism, nationalism and bigotry, where expressing a preference for peaceful solutions gets one called a coward or a “terrorist sympathiser”.

Then there’s the version of “Lest we forget” that seems to me to be the underling problem to finding peace in Northern Ireland, the perpetuation on both sides of “Never forget what those b~~~~~~s did to us”.  The perpetual generation of hatred, especially as indoctrination of the young.  Earlier this year we witnessed in Glasgow an Orange parade – bands and marching and banners and crowds coming out to watch the spectacle.  All I could see were bitter old men and angry middle-aged men wearing orange sashes, and lots of small boys dressed in military uniforms looking all proud to be maintaining the tradition.  The atmosphere was just anger and hate; it was appalling and pathetic to see.  It is nothing like a Scouts’ St George’s Day parade and poles apart from the likes of Warrington’s Walking Day.

As well as talking, listening and reconciling, there’s an awful lot of forgetting needs to be done in and around Northern Ireland: forgetting to maintain the tradition of instilling children and young adults with blind hate.  It makes us sick when Moslem extremists like IS do it, and when Christian extremists like the Lord’s Resistance Army recruit child soldiers in Africa.  So why is it OK for religious extremists in the British Isles to recruit children to propagate and perpetuate their militaristic tradition of violence and hatred against their fellow people?  And it would help if we quietly dropped Armed Forces Day in Northern Ireland too – it is counter-productive having the British Army setting an example of militaristic street marches.

For the love of God, as a society, can we please just stop passing on a tradition of hate and instead learn to forget?

 

PS: Airstrikes kill civilians.

Killing for Christ

Personally, my main concerns over starting wars are the financial and social costs and the subsequent consequences from a desire for revenge.  Lately, I have been spending more time with people who object from a conscientious objective, sometimes from a religious viewpoint.  I have also been exposed to a forum where I regularly hear “people with no religion have no moral compass“.

I do not see there is necessarily a link between a care for humanity and adherence to a religion.  I shall explain.

When gathering evidence that argues against capital punishment, I was surprised at how many American Christian Baptist groups demand the death penalty because “it is God’s will according to the Bible“.  Funny that, because I thought the 6th commandment to not kill, and the subsequent teachings of Jesus in the Gospels to turn the other cheek and forgive, were supposed to take precedence over the Old Testament’s millennia-old verbal story traditions of nomadic desert tribes-people.

That made me contemplate the “you need religion to have morals” claim since some Christians are saying killing people is good, right and proper because it is what God wants.  But other Christians are saying they think the teachings say it is always wrong (which was my interpretation from reading them, too).

But I think learning about a variety of religions and their pros and cons is helpful and informative.  It tells you about the ground they have covered and what to think about.  It also protects one from the more predatory organisations.

If I were writing about political systems and claimed “absolute power corrupts absolutely“, few would disagree and most would sagely nod their heads and agree it has been proven time and time again through history.

But when you have any form of organised religion that says “Do exactly what we say” and “Think what we tell you to think” combined with “It is a sin to read the scriptures of others” and “Only we tell the truth“, it will always go wrong.  Organised religions are run by people and absolute power corrupts absolutely – we know that from history.  Giving them absolute power over your behaviour is naïve or foolish.

This is why I worry about people who operate in such organisations and demand people follow them blindly.  What kind of person wants that kind of power over others, and why do they want it?  Why are they attracted to that role, or create it for themselves, and why enforce it so thoroughly?  Scary people!

Then I worry about those who specifically promote such religions to vulnerable people: the homeless, refugees and students who are living away from home for the first time and who may be spiritually lost, home-sick or lonely.  Why are people who want absolute power over others so keen to target people who are already in turmoil?  Sounds like abusers looking for easy victims to me.

That is why I get so cross with people advertising or promoting the Mormons, the 7th Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and now the Revival Fellowship too.  Relatively new organisations who demand total blind adherence to their teachings and rejection of all other beliefs such that their members are forbidden to even find out about them.  They all typically have ‘scriptures’ that have been amended many, many times, they have false end-of-the-world predictions and a history of turmoil in their leadership as different power nuts fight for control over their followers.  Organisations defending young earth creationism, faith healing, evidence of aliens or that Jesus went to America.

It is also why I would always advocate to someone feeling a need for spiritual guidance to always shop around.  You wouldn’t buy a house or a car without looking at a few first, so why commit your immortal soul (if such a thing exists) to the first Honest John dealer (“Honest John, Honest John, the others are a con!“) who approaches you?  And remember, if they are reaching out to you, it is because you have something they want, not because they have something to give away.  If you are being approached in the street or online to “open your mind” and accept their teachings blindly and reject things that most of the rest of the world believe, then you can be sure you are being conned – all cold callers and spammers are just trying to get something from you and that includes those promoting too-good-to-be-true “religions” too.

Find out about a variety of big religions and faith systems – both with and without gods – what they stand for, their history, what is involved, what the criticisms are.  Get a feel for what is right, honest, decent and true.  Become wise enough to spot the outdated, the inappropriate and, sadly, the liars hiding amongst them.

I did that and came out the other side as a confirmed atheist.  You may come to a different conclusion.  But either way, you’ll have worked out for yourself a pretty good idea of what you think is right or wrong.

More Killing for Christ: bombers, Catholic revenge on Protestants, black-policeman-killing survivalists, their own membership, lynchings, migrants, death penalty and anti-peace!   And sometimes, a religion can be very wrong indeed.

Re: I feel depressed because of war

A discussion on the forum of The Student Room started like this:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60094763] I can’t stop thinking about what children must be going through in their war-torn countries and witnessing their parents shot and stuff. All these graphical images/videos on Facebook and it all makes me sad  🙁 They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time they don’t deserve to go through all this. I can’t stop over-thinking and getting all sad and stuff. I try to avoid news and facebook and sh*t but that’s not helping :/ [/QUOTE]


There are things one can do.  Here is the reply from yours truly:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095245] It’s impossible for the an average person to change the world. [/QUOTE]
It is that belief that makes you feel depressed about it. But that belief is not entirely accurate. Every change that has ever occurred started with someone thinking “I want to do something about this“.

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095325] No, I’m not going to sit back and watch people die [/QUOTE]
Good. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

You could support Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières. They help the victims of war (amongst others) and, given they’ve just had two hospitals destroyed by airstrikes lately, they could do with some support. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the USA had said “Oops. We’re not taking responsibility, but how much $$$ do you need to replace that hospital?“)

You might want to learn more about The Movement for the Abolition of War. They are an organisation of volunteers with a huge dream trying to make a huge difference. Their web site has links to lots of similar organisations.

War Resisters’ International are a pacifist activist group. Perhaps you would be proud to be a War Resister. They are active in all sorts of areas to try to prevent violence and promote peaceful alternatives.

You may be more interested in the Peace Pledge Union. Would you sign a peace pledge to ‘renounce war and never again to support another‘?

If you want to not pay for war, there is a Peace Tax bill going before the government next year, which, if accepted, would mean you can say you want your tax money that would have gone on military activity (about 10%) to go on peace-making work instead. Conscience Taxes for Peace not War are leading on this. Writing to your MP to say you support this would help. There’s a news article about the bill here.

Conscience and Peace Tax International is UK based but campaigns globally for the right to legally object to paying for armaments or war preparation.

There are numerous religions groups too, if you are that way inclined, not just Anglican but especially the Quakers.

Do any of those float your boat?

Tiresome security vulnerabilities and wannabe l33t h4ckerz

The 11112018 organisation web site got hacked last week.  Some child replaced the site with a pro-Islamic page that boasted of their l33t h4ck1ng skillz and claiming to be an Afghanistani member of a hacker team:

Screenshot of the hacked 11112018 web site

Hacked 11112018 web site

Meh.  The page was the sort of thing one saw on bulletin boards back in the early 1990s with a link to an (uncredited) image of a Moslem knight.

It is a shame that in doing so, they trashed the 11112018 anti-war web site. How to make friends and influence people, not.

They managed to do so because I had not applied an update to the Drupal web content management software I was using; the version had a security vulnerability this person took advantage of.  A quick Google search shows they have uploaded identical content to over 700 web sites.

What amazes me is the poor quality of their work.  The HTML is full of stupid errors that shows the child responsible did a simple cut ‘n’ paste of downloaded code into existing HTML without knowing what they were doing.  It also includes embedded JavaScript, some of which does not execute at all because it is incorrectly implemented.  The layout of the HTML also demonstrates a total lack of understanding of what they were doing.

This is the technology equivalent of putting sugar in someone’s petrol tank or letting their tyres down.

(But they were unwise to leave log file traces, names, IP addresses, traceable script and a trail of identical destruction to other web sites online.)

My To Do List for June included replacing Drupal with something else and putting up a load of content onto the 11112018 organisation site.  Well, now it seems I’ll be replacing the site completely.  Time that would have been spent working on peace studies and pro-peace activity.  But now with slightly less motivation than I had before.

Although I could claim “Hey, I’ve arrived!  A pro-Islamist activist group have targeted my peace web site for taking down and replaced it with their messages of hate!”  But the reality is they have an automated script that just trawls the domain lists for sites due for renewal and searches for this specific vulnerability, then automatically applies their—rather awful—content.

They have just as mindlessly replaced a web site for childcare and a children’s skateboard park web site.

It’s just the same childish, mindless vandalism as spraying swastikas on bus shelters.

I am so disappointed.

Dinosaur poets

A fellow Open University student wrote in Dinosaur poets TM:

what is/are Poets

Can they die and emerge again

like Dinosaurians

?

which made me think of some of the First World War poets and haiku in response.

Brooke.  Grenfell.  Munro.
Owen.  Rosenberg.  Sorley.
Thomas.  Wilson.  Wyn. 

The Great War is history, and the poets above did not survive it.  But fragments of their work live on, typically preserved in stone, like the fossils of creatures who lived at a time before ours when great beasts roared across the earth, ripping gentler souls limb from limb in the quest for blood to spill and flesh to consume.

Which got me thinking about the metaphor of Hollywood B-movie dinosaurs as great monsters, roaring and killing like the great guns of the artillery blasting away at the soldiers in the trenches.

Children love to see reconstructed dinosaurs and stomp about roaring and pretending to be a T-Rex, chomping great chunks out of authority figures like parents and teachers and elder siblings.  Being so big and powerful that they can do as they like, ruling the earth.

Is this the childish, base desire that prompts people to like to watch war being made on the news?  Gore-porn as entertainment?  How advertisers are clamouring to get their products promoted alongside clips of people being beheaded, blown up, burning alive, shot and gently rotting in the sun?  The advertisers and media know what we like.

Civilisation is a transparently thin veneer.

Bullet tracing – tracer bullets

There’s an interesting comment by DLee4144 on the Jeff Danziger cartoon of 18th December 2012:

It’s totally true that guns don’t kill people, or at least rarely – about the only way you can kill someone with a gun is to beat them to death with it.

There is no point in outlawing guns.  They are out there, there are millions, they are made of metal and will last for a thousand years if they are kept oiled.  Failing that, I could find materials in my basement that would produce a workable gun, and it doesn’t take much knowledge of the subject to figure out how to do it.

BULLETS on the other hand, are time consuming to make and require specific equipment.  Production of enough to do serious damage would require planning and patience that are not characteristic of those who shoot up elementary schools.  And, working on such a project might attract the attention of someone sane.

Bullets can be individually stamped, and their sale can be registered and entered into a computer base.  They can be tracked from production to use, so that every bullet can be traced back to the person who purchased it.  This way, a guy who wants to buy a couple boxes of bullets to go shoot deer, or the woman who wants a box to keep with the gun in her bedside drawer, won’t set off any warning bells.  But the guy who is buying an arsenal will attract attention before he finds a more lethal way to do it.

Now there’s an interesting idea: unique identification of bullets.  That would be inconvenient for all sorts of gun-related bad behaviour.  Including mercenary activity.

When did you become a pacifist?

I have been asked a few times what happened last year that made me decide to become a pacifist.  What a strange question.

Well, I do recall that about 1974, aged 9, I suggested to my little friends my brilliant idea for global world peace: that we should nuke any country that attacks another one.  If everyone agreed with this plan, nobody would start a new war.  That is, if some country invades or attacks another, everyone else nukes the first country off the face of the planet.  Completely and utterly.

It seemed like a good plan at the time… to me.  I can’t remember if it was Saul or Neil who said “But what if we want to start a war?” which rather put a spanner in the works of my plan to start a global juvenile peace movement mobilisation.  I assumed that the rule should apply to us, too.  Also, Jason objected to the killing of all the innocent civilians, but I suspect that was because he was thinking of a few countries that we needed to give a good warring to.

In college, about 1983, aged 18, the Social Sciences lecturer (I think his name was Plank – at least, that’s how we referred to him) gave us a hypothetical question: the government has declared war on some country, what are you going to do?  I said “Protest”.  Over the next few lectures he added to the scenario until, after about three weeks, we got to the point that conscription had been brought in and the Military Police were coming to collect me at mid-day.  (By this point everyone else had attended the sign-up offices as their registered letter had told them to.)  I said I’d be a conscientious objector; he said the government had made that illegal.  “Fine, I’ll go to prison.”  He said that wasn’t an option: ‘conshies’ were being put in uniform and sent to the front.  “I’m still not going.  I won’t wear the uniform.  I won’t pick up the gun.”  So he said I’d be shot as a coward.

“In that case, I still won’t fight.  I won’t kill people on behalf of a government that says they will kill me if I don’t do it.  That kind of government is not worth fighting for.

A society that kills its own people for refusing to kill other people they have never met, is exactly the kind of society we should be fighting against.

He went ballistic with me, calling me a coward and a bad citizen and that I was letting down all my peers and how I was an example of why social science teaching was essential – presumably to indoctrinate young people into cheerfully killing strangers to order.

(The expression “I voz only following orders” was still common parlance despite the Nuremberg War Crime Trials having finished 34 years earlier, and I have never quite understood the difference between shooting a civilian and shooting a conscripted civilian in an scratchy uniform.  If “I was only following orders” was not a valid defence then, why should it be now?  Since I cannot differentiate between a civilian and a conscript, I can shoot neither.)

When I was nine years old, I thought it was OK to kill innocent civilians for living under a bad government.  Then I grew up and realised it is the bad governments we should fight, not the poor souls that have to live under them.

So it’s not so much ‘when’ I became a pacifist as having changed my views on ‘how’ I should be a pacifist.

Children of The Bomb

(Originally written 19/10/2012.)

There was a common acceptance when I was at school that

“There’s not much point getting O Levels or A Levels.  We’ll be dead before we start work anyway”.

This was because we were growing up in the Cold War, after the Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis / Caribbean Crisis / Kарибский кризис had occurred, when it was clear the USA really would consider use of a first-strike with nuclear weapons, and knowing there were Mutually Assured Destruction policies in place on both sides.  That is, one small error or political crisis would result in the destruction of missile sites in the UK, and the death of most everyone in Europe and certainly us children before we’d had a chance to grow up.

This made it hard to find the motivation to plan for the future, as there was little point.  There were many of us who had poor grades as a consequence of this, including some who gave up althogether.

And we all knew how we were going to spend our last 7 minutes when the sirens went off.  We certainly talked about it often enough.

Growing up in such a climate cannot be healthy.  Off the top of my head, our cultural exposure included:

1979 – the Protect and Survive films like Casualties
1983 – 99 Red Balloons – Lena
1983 – WarGames
1984 – Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (“War!  What is it good for?” *)
1984 – Threads
1985 – The War Game
1986 – When the Wind Blows

All manner of cheerfulness: www.atomica.co.uk/culture.

Perhaps it is no surprise that my generation, born in the 1960s, have such a strong “think of the children” and “children must be allowed freedom” and “children must be protected from fear” mindset.

My mother, who lived through the second World War, said the Cold War was a huge improvement over the hot sort.

 

* Record sales, apparently.