Monday, February 27, 2006

When birds fly...

Holly Finch is flying into the light...and it is damn lovely to see.

Hope after sadness, healing after shock and fear.

The picture is of a diamond finch: appropriate.

Fed up with the Government this week because...(1)

I think this will be a weekly feature, a round-up of what is causing me to go *headdesk* each week.

This week I am pissed off about...
Even M15 are after a 7/7 Public Enquiry, FFS. What are you hiding. Tony?
Tessa Jowell's husband's ALLEGEDLY taking bribes and money laundering - how much did she know? Is this why she's been so off the ball with victims of terrorism's care? What with the police raiding her house and all?
The Legislative Reform Bill- yeah, yeah, let's just ignore Parliament completely, crack on
Glorifying Terrorism - Just watch it all right? We know what you are thinking.
ID cards. And we know who you are and where you live.
My PM telling me he is a protector of liberty - there's only a certain amount to go round, you know.
Guantanamo being an ''anomaly'' but let's just not talk about it, hmmmm? Or torture. Or rendition. Quick, mention 9/11, terror victims, dead people, there you go, aren't you ashamed of yourself?

It is about time really serious concerted efforts were made to kick this government up the bum. They are stealing my liberties and taking the piss and we've all had enough now. Really.

To be continued...

Beards and rucksacks

Years ago, I worked as a teacher of English on a Greek island. It was unsettling for the first six months when some people who didn't know me would cross the road from me, or hiss 'whore' as I passed. Sometimes men would try to grope me, or pester me. Eventually I worked out why: it was because I was English and they thought I was a tourist and therefore a slut, especially as I was a woman who had come out to the island alone. I was 23 years old. I didn't know what to do. I felt upset and angry. I reacted at first by mostly hanging out with the other English teachers, and I did not make many Greek friends unless I knew them through work or had been introduced, because I felt afraid and defensive. I dressed respectably and had a job at an Greek-owned independent school where I taught all ages from eight to sixteen years. I even worked for the Greek national examination board marking students for oral exams. But in the eyes of many people, I was a foreigner and so a whore and should be ostracised.

By the time I left, a year later, it had calmed down and I was generally accepted in the town. But I never forgot what it felt like to be such an outsider, and how my response was to shrink away, feeling ashamed and angry. I thought of this experience again today when I read a BBC magazine article about being an Asian man with a beard in London: Travels with my Beard

Being hissed at in the streets of Evia and thought a tart for six months was one thing, being thought a terrorist or murderer, another. I have tried to imagine what it must be like to live in London and deal with the stop-and-searches, the suspicious glances, the spaces left next to you on the tube and the bus. The hurt and anger that would build up in me if it kept happening to me.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I still get panic reactions on the tube, with a particularly bad one happening last week when I was honestly convinced I was going to die. There was no bomber on my carriage, but I had to get off the train because my body reacted as if it was about to be bombed and went into shock. When found myself still alive on the platform at Russell Square, shaking, I wanted to apologise to the bearded Asian man with the rucksack. Of course, I couldn't, the train had moved on, the man still on it, surrounded by crowds of other passengers. I don't know whether they were nervous as well. I don't know whether he felt nervous. I felt awful; guilty, shakey, weepy, ashamed.

Some tube journeys are worse than others. Last year, I was encouraged and cheered by Jag's post about being a dark-skinned man with a rucksack. For weeks I felt almost normal and I thought: I am better.
Then, bang, back in the panic zone. Right now, I find that Asian men with beards and rucksacks on a train is a massive challenge again. Seven months after July 7th, I find it very hard to control my physical response when I travel on a crowded rush hour tube. If a dark-skinned bloke - with a rucksack gets on - the panic-dial goes up to eleven. I try not to show my fear. It embarrasses me.

A few weeks ago, as I jumped up from my seat I forced myself to smile apologetically at the young man I was panic-reacting to. I probably looked like a maniac, sweaty, quivering, with a wide-eyed, rictus grin. He looked a bit scared of me. I was hot with shame as well as fear as I jumped off the bus.
I now go to NHS cognitive-behavioural therapy sessions for travel fear which I started in December. It is helping with some of the feelings I have. However, I am still specifically scared of rucksack-carrying men on tubes. I have established this reaction occurs when I am in a confined space, especially in a crowded tube carriage. I went to the Muslim demo a few weeks ago and got into conversations with several young Muslims ( with or without beards, several carrying rucksacks,) in Trafalgar Square. So above ground I am fine and I can also trust my reactions in buildings, in shops, restaurants, offices, bars and cars.

All this bloody liberal angst: I have had nasty anonymous comments left on the blog accusing me of being a racist after I wrote about the experience on the tube last week. I deleted them, which is what I have started doing with anonymous insults on my personal blog: I don't see why I should put up with trolls. I did want to address the accusation though, because it is something of an uncomfortable subject.

Racist adj 1: based on racial intolerance; "racist remarks" 2: discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion [syn: antiblack, anti-Semitic, anti-Semite(a)] n : a person with a prejudiced belief that one race is superior to others [syn: racialist]

Am I a racist in the way I view the world? Is my reaction on tubes, racist? I think it is a fear reaction, not a racist reaction. I am reacting to a percieved, physically-experienced threat, not a race or religion. I will sit next to an older Muslim man or a Muslim woman of any age on the tube because I don't have any fear of them. I walk around London avoiding dark alleys, dodgy minicabs, on the look out for nutters like any other Londoner with a degree of street-sense, but feeling generally unpeturbed. I am very wary of youths if they look like they might approach me on the street, and will cross the road to avoid them, but that is a basic self-defence reaction of most women I know in London. I am frightened to open my door at night. But, well, that's because I was attacked before, in 2002, by a youth who followed me home and then rang my door at night and then attacked me and left me for dead. Yeah, yeah, I know. Random. Unlucky.

If I had been attacked and badly bitten by an Alsatian dog, as my friend was many years ago, I might well have a similar life to hers: she does not walk in parks where dogs run off the lead, she avoids dogs and crosses the road if she can to avoid them. And if she sees an Alsatian, she still has a violent physical, shaking, fearful reaction. Even though she is a very bright woman and she knows that just because one Alsatian mauled her, not all of them are about to do so.

It's all quite depressing and sad, and worrying. Many people in London were more jumpy after July 7th, whatever race or religion they were, despite us saying 'we are not afraid'. These feel like fearful times. And fear sells papers and strengthens governments' hands. But I know this: I don't want to be afraid, I don't like it, and I am doing what I can to overcome it; getting on the tube as often as I can, seeing the therapist, engaging with people and trying to move through the fear and past the fear and out the other side.

Fear is disabling. It makes us rigid, intolerant, stunts our enjoyment of life. I'm going to keep going: the more times I get on trains and arrive safely then the more I learn that it is only fear after all, the shadow of last summer brushing me, but not real, not now, not any more.

Britblog no.2 of 2005

Tim W's got some corkers this week. Clickety click!

Poem: To the Governments....

I was sent this by the mother of one of the July 7th passengers. Her daughter died in the Piccadilly line suicide bomb attack and was travelling in my carriage when it was bombed.


you send them off to war
to fight your fight

in the name of god
in the name of justice

you send them

you say "we are saving this country"
by invading it

you say "it’s what their people want"

you say "we have to stop them, they
are developing nuclear capability"

you say "we must expect collateral damage"
speak-ease for dead soldiers from
your country and dead civilians
from the country you are "rescuing"

you say "they stole our land 100’s if not 1000’s of
years ago – it isn’t fair"

you say "they have insulted our god – they must
die for that"

you say "our god is a peaceful god who must be
avenged with violence"

you say "they have killed one of us, we must kill
more of them – to show them they cannot
do this"

you say "we must fight terrorism"

you say "to fight terrorism we must take away
some of your basic democratic civil rights"

you say "we are right – it is for your own good"

you say "you don’t understand it is complex"

you are right on one count

and one count only

I don’t understand
I don’t understand in the name of god, any god

I don’t understand in the name of justice

the continual sanctioning of the waste of lives
on endeavours based on any of the above reasons

I probably don’t understand because it is complex
you say

and I am only a mother of one of the dead
but I know something you don’t understand

because it is too simple for you to understand
that every death is a person not a number

that every death is someone’s child, maybe
a brother or a sister too

that every death is not a solitary step
that every death effects that person’s family and friends

that if you received a knock at your door
to take your son to war for the better good

that if your child were waiting for the tube
and a bomber said to him/her
I am going to randomly set off a bomb
people will die
you might die
you can call a parent to substitute

would you go or would you say
he/she is collateral
the price of our war on terror
has to be paid by someone

it is simple
and I do not understand

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Word Clouds

Via Tim ( who got it via Dynamist) ; just when I was worrying about the blog being boring and ranty and one dimensional - here is damning proof, discovered when I took the opportunity to check out the most common words on my blog, via Snapshirt's Word Cloud .

Not many surprises there, really. Go try it, it's quite compulsive. Tim's, Justin's and DK's can be viewed here.

Boring and ranty

This blog is getting a bit ranty and one-dimensional. I think it is getting a bit boring. It's getting repetitive. It's all about politics, fear, July 7th. I suppose that I think a great deal about politics, fear and July 7th at the moment, and I go to work, hang out with J and my friends, do stuff, and store all the things I write about here in my head until I get a chance to download it all onto this blog. Which is fair enough and it works for me, but maybe I should try and write about other things as well so I don't turn into rent-a-rant victim lady.

Everyone who blogs seems to have one of those 'why am I blogging' moments, and I guess this is mine.

Has anyone suggestions? What would you like me to write about? I wrote for the people who read this as well as myself, and I think I need to extend my range a bit so I would be really grateful for any thoughts anyone can chuck my way. I will try my hand at anything anyone suggests, I promise to give it my best shot.

Thank you for any feedback and for your patience during this somewhat tiresome time.

'An open invitation to abuse their power'

Oooh, spooky. J comes back from buying the paper and I find this excellent article in the Guardian, saying it much better than me:

''Dangerously for all of us, the fear of terrorism is legitimising intimidating behaviour by petty officials and agents of the state. It has become an excuse for bullying people when they step out of obedient lines... I fear that many of us are failing to see the danger we are now in, precisely because we have grown up in a largely benign state. We still trust in the good sense and reasonableness of its agents, and the rest of officialdom. We don't understand that that has been sustained only by the existence of our legal rights, and by a respect for our freedom of action. We don't see the lesson of every society: that if you do not place constraints on official power, its instinct is to grow. Our tolerant world is disappearing, and it is only when many more of us start running up against that reality that we will realise what we have lost.
Four years ago, just after 9/11, an American judge wrote a warning that is worth repeating. Andrew Napolitano said: "In a democracy, personal liberties are rarely diminished overnight. Rather, they are lost gradually, by acts of well-meaning people, with good intentions, amid public approval. But the subtle loss of freedom is never recognised until the crisis is over and we look back in horror. And then it is too late."

Dissident voices

I wonder how things will be in the future? Political bloggers, writers, reporters, commenters - are you afraid of what may be coming?

I grew up asking questions. But I wonder if Rachel Norths blogging in the future will be be allowed to ask questions? Will she be punished in the future for having had the temerity to ask questions at the start of the twenty-first century, back in the days when we still could?

'I used to write. I used to criticise the Government. Before the news was fully-censored, the internet fully-controlled, before the irises of my eyes were scanned, and my data, my DNA, my movements, my visited-websites, my credit history, tax payments, my voting patterns, my medical history and benefit claims, and my criminal record all stored and regularly checked. When Parliament's M.Ps could still debate freely, when the Prince of Wales could cheerfully call himself 'a dissident'and not be immediately arrested. When people felt they could still move freely, talk freely, work freely, read freely, debate freely, protest freely. Even though they were already being CCTV-taped, watched, tracked, logged, could be arrested on a minor pretext, still, then, they were mostly left alone. You'd have thought people would have worried more about what was coming, but they still trusted that we had a benign and democratic tradition of freedom and they didn't want to read the signs. The Government of the day grew bolder, more authoritarian; they curtailed civil liberities and they misused their powers, but people still didn't want to believe that there was anything too badly wrong.

I used to write. But after a while, I was too afraid. I'm not sorry that I wrote it, but I had to tell them I was, later. It all became too difficult, you see. We let them take our freedom away, and we didn't shout loud enough. And now it is too late.'

You give people power; they tend to want more of it, of course. What do you think will happen if we allow Governments and their officials more power to pry and to manage and to control the unruly lives of their citizens? Quite - a wise man wrote this once:

'All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience
to remain silent.'

'Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government
those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it
into tyranny.'

We have had a fine tradition of writers and pamphleteers speaking out for hundreds of years. Telling people about what is done in their name, with their money, their taxes, by their bosses and representatives, and pointing out what the powerful - the elected and the unelected - would like to hide. Information, education, criticism, out there for people to read and consume for a few pennies, or for free. People read, think, argue, debate, get angry, act. Protests, pressure, demands for accountability are the necessary checks on those who govern us. Freedom and responsibility, cause and effect, justice and injustice: we are all responsible for them. The freedom to disagree with the powers that be is absolutely crucial to how we all live, how we call ourselves free. This freedom deserves to be cherished and protected. More and more to me the War On Terror sounds like The War On Freedom. The War Of Fear. Unwinnable and unnecessary, inhuman and unjust.

Wars on abstract nouns are impossible misnomers. It's all about power-grabbing, of course. But recent events have me worried enough to wonder where all this is headed if it is allowed to continue unchecked.

I am reading Andrew Marr's My Trade, which is a sharp and sparkling examination of his profession - journalism. Before that I read Fergal Keane's All of These People, which is a moving and compassionate book and a brave one. We need our writers who are brave, who question, who fearlessly share what they find out is going on in this world of ours that we all share - and who retain their compassion and humanity as well as their nose for the news we devour. We have a fine tradition of them in this country. And now, with the rise of blogging, we have thousands of citizen journalists and commenters having their say too. We bloggers are not very important in the grand scheme of things, we are very tiny fish in a fast flowing river, but it is still important that we have this basic freedom to speak up and swim against the flow.

Journalism and opinionated commentary are important, for they help to shape how we think. Journalists stimulate, educate, irritate and obfuscate, they sensationalise, romanticise, entertain as they criticise and provoke. Good newswriting should not just inform, it should demand a human response to the comings and goings, the tragedies and banalities, the struggles and the machinations of our fellow humans. We all love to watch the Wheel of Fortune turn: those who rise, those who fall, those who capture the news agenda and those who are left as mere damaged flotsam in its wake as the news machine that reports history moves on. Sharing news is a sharing of our common humanity, it helps to place us in the world. We are the story-telling mammal; we need narratives for a sense of identity, our own and those of others.

I am very worried about what is happening at the moment. I.D cards, the Anti-Parliament bill, the Glorification of Terrorism amendment, all these latest abuses of power that gnaw away at our ability to live free of meddlesome checks and to say and think what we want to say and think. I worry that those who criticise will be silenced, that those who are angry will be denounced as threats to our 'security'. If not now, when? Soon? There is already a worrying heavy-handedness in the Government's response to dissidence and criticism. The Prevention of Terrorism Act is being misused to shut people up and bully and frighten them. Peace protesters Maya, Wolfgang, actors from a Guantamo movie, god knows how many more people frightened and bullied and detained - this is a clear abuse of state and police power. I am no Niemoller but I am jumpy. When will they come for the bloggers and the writers? How long have we got? What can we do to hold onto what we still take for granted, before it blows away in the storm of over-reaction, fear-mongering and paranoiac responses to the actions of angry young men?

I hope that I am just being paranoid: this week I have felt very unsettled and fearful, and I am trying very hard not to be. What do you think?

Friday, February 24, 2006

One summer morning...

One summer morning, Steve got on a train...

Please visit him and wish him well on his journey.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Following on from a post made earlier this week ( and I am sorry I had to edit it, but I was advised to as the thing is sub judice and the last thing I want to do is prejudice a terrorism trial, or be accused of trying to do so). was angry in July, is still angry, and so am I, reading this

'To recap: Purely for political advantage during the US election, the Bush administration needlessly blew the cover of an al-Qaeda mole who was leading intelligence services to a terrorist network in the UK. As a result, they then had to make rushed arrests before they were ready. Some got away. At least one of those was one of the suicide bombers last Thursday.
Now tell me how Bush wasn’t at least partly responsible1 for the deaths of
50 people in London last Thursday. I can’t tell you how angry I am. This is a scandal that should be plastered all over tomorrow’s front pages. To quote our friend Nosemonkey:
if it does turn out that politics has been played with our national security - impeachments alone won’t be enough. This would be gross, irresponsible negligence of the highest order. A blase disregard of people’s safety and lives resulting in the maiming and death of scores of innocents. And for what? Power, plain and simple. If this is true, our leaders will have become as bad as those they are supposed to be fighting.'

And there's no link between Iraq and July 7th? FFS.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Travelling with Fear

I am trying to act in a way that is congruent with the last post I made: when I said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Yesterday and today I took the tube to work; today, the same carriage I travelled in on July 7th, same place in the carriage. Because I know how to escape from there. Fear is my companion when I travel, but some journeys are worse than others.

Last night, after teaching dance class, I had a call from another girl who had just joined Kings Cross United. She lives in Spain. She called me, her voice shaking with emotion as she spoke to her first fellow passenger about the experience we both shared. She is traumatised, trying to be brave: she is brave. It turns out we were next to each other when we fell to the floor. And that she was five seats away from the bomber when his bomb exploded. She remembers me taking her hand, pulling her to her feet, she remembers my voice telling everyone to stay calm and to use our mobile phones as torches, to stand up if we were not injured, to hold onto each other and to ssssh, don't panic, don't scream, because we needed to listen out for the cries of who was injured in the darkness and the smoke. She walked behind me down the tunnel, then we lost touch when we came out into the light. Last night, we found each other. She is flying from Spain to meet us all in March, when we have our next pub get-together.

She has been visited by the police, they are going round the passengers with a plan of the train and asking us all to fill in where we stood. I have not had my visit yet: though I gave a very detailed statement the weekend after the bomb and I had already drawn a plan of the train and where I stood for the officers, so maybe they don't need to talk to me again

That plan I drew became the Kings Cross United train plan, and at each meeting new joiners can sign themselves on the train plan and see who was near them. It is very moving to see the Kings Cross United book, with everyone's names in their handwriting.

Today I thought of the brave girl from Spain as I took my place on the train. I thought of the other passengers I have got to know and how much I like them all, how knowing them has helped me get back on the train to work. Then, at Kings Cross, a heavy-set Asian man with a rucksack and a beard stood right in front of me as I sat by the first set of double doors. The train was too crowded for me to move away, and I realised that I was in the kill zone if it was a bomb that he carried.

There was nowhere to go. The train moved off and I stared through the train window at the new red wiring on the restored tunnel walls: that is how you can tell exactly where the explosion happened between Kings Cross and Russell Square. I stared at his rucksack, trying frantically to see his face, his demeanour, see if he sweating with fear - to look for clues - but his face was turned from me. I tried to cover my face under my coat, behind my hands, like a child. Knowing that it was pointless: if it had been a bomb in his rucksack my body, my face, my coat, my hands would all be blown to pieces. I was feeling sick as the fear gripped me and the remembered shock tore through me, leaving me shaking and gasping. I waited to die. I looked at my fellow passengers and waited for them to die. I tried to hold onto what I was, to collect all I was, ready for oblivion. I thought of the people I love. I was angry, I was afraid, I didn't want to die.

We stopped at Russell Square: I have not stepped on that platform since July 7th. Passengers surged off, the man with the rucksack stayed on. I watched the train disappear into the tunnel, I curved my body behind a wall to shield me from the explosion my body told me was coming. I waited for the bang and the smoke.

Nothing happened.

It was an ordinary train and there was no bomb. But I was standing on the platform, reacting as if I was in the middle of a war. Adrenaline was thundering round my body and the station was shimmering and swimming in front of my eyes. I realised that I was so afraid I could not focus properly, that my eyes were full of tears and that my face was wet with sweat but I was freezing cold.

The man with the rucksack was no-one to be afraid of. I wanted to apologise to him for thinking he was a killer.But of course, he was long gone into the tunnel.

I looked at the station clock, it was 8.42am.

I had to get to work for a meeting at 8.45am.

I forced myself to get on the next train.

It got to Covent Garden and I was safe. For now. I walked into the meeting late. I tried not to show that I was still shaking.

The worst thing of all is the fear; I have so few defences against it.

Getting to work is still so very hard. Blogging why helps, writing this has calmed me down.

I need to go to another meeting; thank you for reading this.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On Freedom from Fear

What price freedom from fear?

My government try to terrify us with talk of terrorism and terror
they stifle free speech for it, tear up habeas corpus, incarcerate without charge,
pass laws without Parliament to ''protect us'' against a terrible enemy
whom they say comes 'out of the blue',

but this enemy is only human. He did not come out of the blue sky.

Later, it turns out my Government knew the enemy was there, and their actions - their war - would help to create the conditions in which this enemy can thrive...

my Government knew this, yet they went ahead with their actions anyway

Now they have sown the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind

People, if this is a war on terror then we are losing,

See how daily terror grows, the fear of terror grows,
and the hate and fear that feeds the hate and fear grows and grows.

Still, there is time to change,
to step back from the abyss,

I know, I believe we all know, deep down, this truth:

hate cannot be defeated by hate, nor bombs with bombs,
fear cannot be defeated with fear, nor anger by anger.

There is another way.
It is hard, but no harder than creating a spiral of destruction that feeds on itself, that escalates the hate and the hurt and the screaming and dying and crying.

Stand tall, and let them hurt you.

Take the blows and do not react, let them rain down and walk on, bloodied but unbowed.
You are stronger than the enemy.

They may attack and beat you, they may bomb you and hurt you, they may try to kill you, they may torture and goad you, tell lies about you, but you can survive it all,
and you can walk on, still your essential self, still you.

You do not need to change what you believe in, you can still hold onto hope, justice, love and to what you know is true. You do not have to descend to the level of those who abuse you.

I know that this is true. I know that this is possible. There is nothing to be afraid of, even pain, even death. Inside, always, a light still shines, that they cannot touch, that they cannot see.

There is nothing to be afraid of, in the end, only fear itself.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Britblog round up time, hurray!

Now in its second scintillating year, Tim has the latest pick of Brit blog roundup juicy goodness for you, enjoy!

Palace apology to bomb victims

Come on Tessa Jowell. Sort it out.

The 7th July Review Committee meeting scheduled for next month will focus on the testimony of survivors and bereaved. Afterwards, a transcript and report and recommendations will be made, and studied, and I am told 'responded to' by the Cabinet. And the Home office and the DCMS, too, I hope.

We are not getting a public enquiry, it seems, and we still await the promised 'narrative of events' - and have not even heard when we will be getting that.

Well, the 7th July Review Committee meeting is something, but it has no teeth.

I hope as many survivors and families as possible get the chance to tell their stories, and I hope people listen, especially people who work for the Government. I think as many individual voices as possible should be heard, saying whatever they want and need to say, in writing or in person, in public or in private to the Committee, anonymously or not.

I will certainly be giving my testimony and I hope that it does some good and that lessons are learned and improvements made for when the next disaster happens.

I have already written about the July 7th questions that haunt victims in the Sunday Times

I have asked many times for an independent and public enquiry.

I have said why I do not think that the Government are very keen to have one.

There is a petition here signed by myself and other survivors and anyone can sign it, who would like their questions answered.

Over to David Leppard in today's Sunday Times on the bungles and Palace apologies...

'Palace apology to bomb victims by David Leppard

BUCKINGHAM PALACE has expressed sympathy with the families of 11 Britons murdered last year by terrorists in Egypt after they complained they had been abandoned and ignored by the government. The Queen failed to send letters of condolence because of bungles by officials working for Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary, whose department has special responsibility for victims of disasters.

In unusually frank language, the palace wrote that it had been told by Jowell’s office that she “took the omission very seriously” and was determined that other tragedies would be “managed better in future”.

The letter was sent from Sandringham House, the Queen’s winter residence, to a relative of one of those killed last July by Al-Qaeda suicide bombers at Sharm el-Sheikh, the resort on the Red Sea. It said there had been similar complaints from families affected by July’s London bombs.
Edward Young, the Queen’s assistant private secretary, wrote: “I am sorry not to have responded earlier, and may I begin by offering you my deepest sympathy for the loss that you have suffered.”
He continued:
I am also sorry that you feel you have not received the support from government that you would expect to at such a dreadful time.”

Young added: “I understand from the secretary of state’s office that families affected by incidents in both London and Sharm el-Sheikh have made strong representations about improving government communications with those most affected and that the secretary of state is determined that this has to be managed better in the future.”

His letter was addressed to Trevor Lakin, whose son Jeremy, 28, died at Sharm el-Sheikh. Lakin had complained to the Palace after discovering that since March last year Jowell’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has had formal responsibility for advising the royal family when it should write letters of condolence after natural disasters and terrorist outrages.
The families of the 22 Britons who died in the Bali attacks in 2002 all received personal letters of condolence from the Prince of Wales.
The Queen has yet to write to the families of the Sharm el-Sheikh victims expressing her formal condolences but Lakin said the letter from her private office provided some comfort. “This is as close to an apology as we are likely to get,” he said.
It is not the first time ministers and officials involved in dealing with the Egypt attacks have bungled. In December, Paul Sizeland, the director of consular services at the Foreign Office, apologised after Whitehall failed to pass on a letter from the Egyptian government offering to provide the victims’ families with full support.

Yasmin Waljee, a solicitor at Lovells, who is representing some of the victims of the London and Sharm el-Sheikh bombings, said ministers had been “completely inert” in dealing with their grievances.

She said the Home Office had suggested the families take legal action against the perpetrators of the attacks. “It’s a little crass to suggest the families try to sue Al-Qaeda. Are we supposed to hunt down Osama Bin Laden in his cave in Afghanistan and serve a writ on him?” Rachel North, who was injured in the London bombs, yesterday joined the criticism of the DCMS. “They need to improve victim’s aftercare,” she said.
The Foreign Office has also been censured in a report by the National Audit Office for its response to the needs of the survivors and the relatives of the 144 Britons who died in the tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004.'

Saturday, February 18, 2006

If you believe in it, debate it...

''The (deliberately?) unsnappily-titled Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill aims to make it quicker and easier to...''

create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred, punishable with two years’ imprisonment;
curtail or abolish jury trial;
permit the Home Secretary to place citizens under house arrest;
allow the Prime Minister to sack judges;
rewrite the law on nationality and immigration;
“reform” Magna Carta (or what remains of it).

Yes, kids, it will become possible for your trusty Government to do all this, by quick-sticks ministerial order, without any of those boring old debates in Parliament with the snoresville-merchants-elected representatives of the people asking tiresome time-wasting questions. No more of that yawnsome yakking on blah-blah- Right-Honourable-friend-blah-yada-yada-order-order stuff. Bish bosh, modern, funky, streamlined thinking, that's what we're all about. Sorted! Wah-hey!

oh, but, hang on...

Sshhh... stop moaning there at the back!
It's only a little tiny bill. Don't worry your pretty little heads about it.
Let us decide what is best for you all..without all that bothersome Parliament palarver

Meanwhile 6 Cambridge Law Professors write... about what the Government are up to...

( 2 of the Professors are knights of the realm, 3 of them are Q.Cs, by the way)

'It would, in short, create a major shift of power within the state, which in other countries would require an amendment to the constitution; and one in which the winner would be the executive, and the loser Parliament.

David Howarth, MP for Cambridge, made this point at the Second Reading of the Bill last week. We hope that other MPs, on all sides of the House, will recognise the dangers of what is being proposed before it is too late. '

Hmmm, Marcel Berlin... muses in the Guardian

' it seriously being suggested that it will really use such methods to pass laws it doesn't feel like putting to Parliament? On the whole, no - and yet, in our current overcharged political climate, it is not too fanciful to imagine the government using every procedural trick to impose laws on the quiet, rather than face a parliamentary storm.
What bothers me most is that the government wants these powers in the first place. They are constitutionally dangerous, giving to the executive what should be a function of the legislature.

And they are unnecessary.'

Hat-tip, Talkpolitics, Justin, of Chicken Yoghurt fame, MatGB ( who has some ideas for you) and Charlie Whittaker from

I.D cards. Glorification of Terrorism. Now this.
What next?

This Government doesn't listen to ordinary people's protesting voices, they won't let protesting voices within a mile of the Houses of Parliament, now they want the option of not even listening to protesting voices in Parliamentary debate! And this is from fellow M.Ps, not the bothersome rabble of voters!

FFS. Why not abolish elections? In fact, why not just get a throne and a crown and a court and announce that you now rule by divine right? I can hear it now...

'Because, y'know, trust me, it's just...better...and safer... and more free... for all of you hard-working families to have things that way.'

Friday, February 17, 2006

Playing fairer

Why, after finding out all of this do I still think that people should not be banged up without charge for 90 days and 90 nights? Why do I not support the Government's anti-terror agenda?
Because I don't think civil-liberties-trashing draconian legislation is the way to deal with this: it inflames people more, and the law is sufficient to cover incitement and planning of murder and mayhem in any case.

There is a need to publicly accept that the disastrous foreign policies of the Bush administration are at the heart of this, to apologise for untruths told, and to deliberately draw away from the US aggressive agenda and engage with a different agenda, one looking at international affairs in terms of fair trade, anti-poverty action, drugs for the Aids sufferers, contraception and healthcare, clean water, dropping 3rd world debt, looking at aid and farming programmes, working for peace. That would do more to combat terror than passing fierce laws and starting illegal wars and locking people up and torturing them and beating them and generally looking like you're doing everything you can think of to make hotheaded young men still more angry and desirous of 'martyrdom' and further violence.

Even the US looks like it might be pulling back a bit; it may be realising that it can win a battle but it cannot win the peace, and a US-model democracy cannot be installed at the point of the gun or people bombed into freedom. We shall see. I still hope.

Until we have fairer trade and social justice, we will continue to feed the violent agendas of those who hate us. I doubt we would be so hated if we were building roads and hospitals and schools and repairing power supplies in Iraq, instead of allowing Cheney and his cronies to rob the country blind. What we are doing *looks* like a war on Muslims and it is hard to counter that, though I think it is actually a war about resources and power-management.

We need to look at the injustice on which extremists feed. We need to look at ourselves and how we act. Some, who enjoy a greater degree of religious freedom than they would get in Saudi Arabia want Sharia Law in the UK & will never be happy. They are too far down a different path. But we can engage with others. We can stop making Iraq a recruiting seargeant for those who think they are right to engage in a holy war against Western civilisation. I want to keep our freedoms, our democracy, our tolerance and fairness. But we need to be sure that we are seen to extend them to everyone in the UK , not just the privilged majority. We need to be seen to be playing fair.

I also think we should practise what we preach: torture and mayhem, shootings and bombings, allowing the cruel and strong to terrorise the innocent and weak happen on our watch - and we wonder why we are so hated?

Behave better, and so garner more support, there is still time to turn the tide, and enlist the support of many more people against real terror. The bloody violence and nihilistic hate of the few will be more clearly seen for what it is if the cynicism fades and the way to start that process off is to admit mistakes, to apologise for them and to stop lying and stop bullying. Instead we should cherish freedom, look after the unfortunate . I would love to see our leaders put into practise the Christian pieties that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush speak of but do not seem to live. You know - feeding the hungry. Helping the helpless. Doing justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with your God.

If you are going to bring religion into this, on either side, at least try and behave as if you have grasped what the tenets of your religion suggest you practice - whether that is the New Testament or the Qu'ran. Then it would be easier to have respect for you. And easier to hold onto the hope; it seems there is enough religion to make people hate each other but not enough to make them love each other. If I was God I would be in despair.

Dick Cheney

Well, if you can hold your own people without trial, wire-tap their conversations, torture them, never mind invading and trashing other people's countries, what's wrong with shooting your mates in the face?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Taking more care of myself

I have put on over twenty pounds since last July. I am really fed up with it; I had been on a healthy diet and exercise regime since January 2005 and it was going great, I felt and looked better than I had done in years. I had a great new job, we had bought our first flat and I was very happy, I really felt that my life was back on track at last and I had everything to look forward to. Then - well, everything changed. I stopped being bothered about what I ate, I still taught dance from September once my wrist had healed enough but I did no other exercise. I smoked a lot more and stopped looking after myself. I couldn't be bothered to get my hair cut or paint my toe nails or wear pretty clothes and I felt old and unattractive and frumpy most of the time. I had no energy for myself, all my energy was focused on just getting through the day, on writing and trying to understand the bombs and what they had done to me and other people. It became very hard to concentrate on anything else. Finances, housework, friendships, chores, looking after myself in every way became way down on the priority list and there were times when I felt really down. It was a huge struggle. Eating salad didn't even register.

Well, I am back on the wagon now. With the wedding to look forward to, there's my incentive to get fit and slim and in any case, I am sick of feeling heavy - emotionally, physically feeling that I am dragging myself about rather than walking with a spring in my step. It's hard to be on a healthy diet when everyone wants to go out for congratulations drinks all the time, but I am going to try and be as healthy as possible and when I don't have a social thing planned, go and swim or run in the gym. Unfortunately I have something planned every night of the week and every weekend until mid-March, but still, I am sure I can fit it in. I can swim before I meet people in the pub, for example.

Tonight I am going to see a play with some KCU pals. Based on the events of July 7th, I remember the author Mimi wanted me to let her use my blog for it when she was writing it but at the time I was sick of people asking me to reproduce the blog and I said no. I'm glad I said no, because she went and talked to lots of other survivors and I am pleased, I don't want me to be the only survivor voice that comes up again and again. Another KCU person, Bumblebee has started blogging and I think it is great that people are being heard.. Welcome to blogland Bumblebee!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day

Sorry, that was a boring ranty post before but I had to get it off my chest.

Valentine's Day: just got back from teaching pole dance class. Afterwards we had a bottle of red. A girl from the pub came and watched us, she had been curious for weeks and now she is joining next week. The advanced class toook a break to be soppy with their partners ( 'half term' ) but I decided to teach the beginners; what better way to celebrate the day of passion if you are single than by high-fiving your fellow students as they screetch with excitement having climbed the pole for the first time? Everyone arrived looking pissed off; they left looking pink cheeked and flushed with triumph.

J sent me lillies and roses, they arrived just as I rushed out of the office. I put them on my desk in the lovely vase they arrived in: now there's a man who knows how to charm a girl - everyone else had to use wastepaper bins to put their flowers in. We announced a new team structure and strategy today, so I and my colleagues were on the front page of the trade paper looking silly and the day was a whirl of meetings announcing the New Way of Doing Things. Internal rumblings were ignored as the good news was evangelised to the ad industry: it will all be all right in the end, and this is a way of everyone having more time to do what they are good at. We were told our company conference in May is to be in Paris, much excitement. We're going to try and break a world record, suggestions as to what we can try are welcome. All for charidee, natch. Should be good.

I ache everywhere but in a good way: just off to cook steaks and roast veg and then Desperate Housewives. Miff the cat and I gave J our cards, she purred and writhed on the floor and waved her paws in a sluttish manner. And the ring arrived yesterday, it is beautiful, a brilliant diamond circled by white gold. I keep gazing at it, and thinking how lucky I am.

We've set a date: September 15th, this year. We're going to be marrried in Dad's church, a Georgian beauty in Norwich, then have a ceileidh in a medieval monk's banqueting hall for all our friends and family. Friends have offered to do my make-up, flowers, make the skirt, do my hair, take the photos. It's all coming together. I feel surrounded by luck and love.

Happy Valentine's Day.

London Assembly 7th July Review Committee

Right. Kings Cross United is a non-political group for survivors and first responders and anyone who was directly caught up in the hell of the Piccadilly line bombed train ( i.e: saw things they won't forget) . We're almost 100 people now - mostly survivors, plus both drivers, two police officers, and LU staff.

Some of us still have questions and comments and and thoughts and feedback about the events of 7th July to share. Some of us have said that we want an independent, transparent Public Enquiry to try answer those questions. Some of us are feeling quite political and pissed off, as individuals about the lack of answers concernign events of July 7th and after.
Yeah, we know. No enquiry is to be held, says the Home Secretary, despite victims' anger. But the questions aren't going away. And when the next bomb goes off, we who went through it last time have some feedback that might be useful. It has been very frustrating. Even if the Government are too scared to face up to the fact that their foreign policy and support of Bush are instrumental in hardening Muslim extremism and raised the likelihood of further terror attacks in the UK, as the Joint Intelligence Committee warned Blair before the Iraq invasion, you'd think that there would be some interest in hearing from survivors, because there are useful learnings that can be shared. Well, now it seems Tessa Jowell may even be listening...

Once again, though, survivors are finding out all this stuff by themselves.I have been in contact with a man from the Edgware Road survivor group, and he let me know about the London Assembly and something called the London Assembly 7th July Review Committee. I had never heard of it. (It apparently came out of the London Resilience Committee, set up I think by the Mayor of London. It has been in operation for some months.) The Edgware Road man has suggested that his survivor group and KCU meet up to discuss issues and raise them at the meeting in March - a good idea I think and I am about to forward his message to the group.

(RANT: But why have we heard nothing about this Committee? I'm in contact with almost 100 survivors and people directly involved and nobody has heard anything - not a sausage! And given that what seems journalists and people from all over the world have managed to find out about KCU and make contact via this blog I am really surpised that nobody at the London Assembly or the DCMS thought to google'' 7/7 survivors'' and get in touch with any of us. Or get in touch with the Government-funded victim resource centre, the 7th July Assistance centre and ask them to tell victims. I wonder how the Edgware Rd group found out about it? Surfing the GLA website by chance?)

Anyway. I called the London Assembly to find out about this Committee and the planned special 'scrutiny' meetings - I understand there is to be one for bereaved 23rd March 10am -1pm, and one for survivors 27th march, 10am - 1pm. The scrutiny meetings are normally public, with press present. However, in this instance I understand survivors and bereaved unwilling to be in the spotlight can have private meetings and submit written documents for consideration with their feedback, thoughts and suggestions beforehand if they want. (Here's some info on 'Scrutiny Meetings'.)

I got quite excited at this point. Could this 'Scrutiny Meeting' be a sort of poor relation of the Independent Public Enquiry I and others have been badgering for? Could it be a start, at least, to answering the July 7th questions that still haunt victims?

The 7th July Review Committee, I have been informed by Dale Longford at the GLA who has an organising role, was set up to look at the 'lessons learned' following July 7th events, with 'particular focus on communications' . I was told by Dale that ''24 hours after the Government announced that there was to be no Public Enquiry'', approaches were made to the Committee'' to set up something. And, yes, they ''are in contact with the Department of Culture Media and Sport.''

Hmmm, I thought.

The DCMS are now funding the 7th July Assistance Centre, ( resource for victims/bereaved/affected by July 7th) but when I phoned the July 7th Assistance Centre up about it they had only heard about the meeting last week. Communication is not a strong point of the DCMS from what I have experienced over the last seven months.

(ANOTHER RANT: It is all so bloody infuriating - if you want to have some sort of enquiry into the events of 7th July, and communication thereafter, particularly with feedback from those involved, it kind of helps if you do some flipping communicating with the victims and survivors. Still, the 7th July Assistance Centre DO know about it now, and details of the planned meeting is to be circulated in a newsletter to victims and bereaved 'soon'. Which is hopeful. However...

There have been lots of problems reported with KCU members in terms of not getting sent info and being put on DCMS lists and then coming off lists again, and data being lost and invites to the Memorial Service and other events being chased and chased...I've ended up doing a lot of chasing and finding out myself and sharing info with the group about everything from Memorial service tickets to HPA Assessment, and I have a day job and a social life and I am obviously not being paid to do all this whereas the 7th July Assistance centre has Government funding.
So I am a bit twitchy about relying on the 7th July Assistance Centre and the DCMS for information on this sort of thing ( though to be fair they seem to have got a lot better recently

The irony of a meeting about communication problems on July 7th and after, with particular interest in the communications to survivors being set up, and the people the Government have put in charge of commuinicating to the survivors are unable to do so because they don't flipping well know about it is not lost on me!).

Anyway. I am told that the Committee has invited people to give their views on lessons learned since 7/7/2005 and to provide said views in writing or at informal meetings or on the days set - and that survivors are especially invited to the meeting on 27th March, from 10am - 1pm bereaved on 23rd March 10am -1pm - and that the focus of these meetings is to be communication - obviously on the day, but also with ''authority figures'' after 7th July ( for want of a better term - police, family liason officers, 7th July Assistance centre, etc).

So at least we can raise our concerns about the communications frustrations we have faced since the bomb exploded, and maybe some good will come out of it. Something helpful for the next survivors and families when the next bomb goes off.

From the website

''Whatever role you play in the life of the capital, the story of your experiences on the day is important to us.
Were you kept informed of what was happening? Were you stuck at work? What about your children, family, loved ones and friends? Were you directly affected and if so did you get the information you needed? What impressed you and what didn't? Importantly, where did you get information from?
It is the events and how they affected your day that matter to us, not your views on the causes and solutions to international terrorism, *they will be edited out of this record. Also, we would like to emphasise that we are focusing on what happened on 7 July, rather than the investigation that took place in the weeks that followed.

*Boo hiss.

Well, at least it is a start...

I bet all the conspiraloons turn up now. Well, at least they'll be able to see that I am real, not a ''Government disinfo shill''. For I shall be there. Oh yes.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Identity cards

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Joint post of the year!


And well done Mr Nosemonkey! The net really came into its own on that day and his site ( which is always an intelligent and thought-provoking read) became a much-valued resource.

And a huge thank you to Tim Worstall, whose Britblog Roundup is indeed an ace thing on an ace blog.

What a top way to round off the weekend. Thank you everyone who has followed my writing since 7th July. Without your kindness, sympathy, wisdom and cheer I would never have got this far.


Rach x

Seek and ye shall find...

Seek and ye shall find all sorts of things...

Hello to the recent searchers who came here looking for

''sex arabi''
''London ass cracks''
''sex calling centre in NOrth bay''
''hot Lonodon girls''
''sex passengers''
and ''North London bitches''.

Hello also to the person interested in ''Jeremy Paxman Weapons of Mass Destruction'', and the person who wanted to find out about ''pole dancing injuries''. (You were definitely slightly more on track about this blog's content. )
Anyway, hope to see you again sometime soon!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Muslim rally in Trafalgar Square

I went to the gym for a swim and a workout, and on the way back I decided to go and visit Trafalgar Square where a rally had been organised by various Muslim groups following the publication of the cartoons, and last week's protest with extremist banners calling for violence. The rally today had about 10, 000 people (at a rough guess) and I found it to be a peaceful and united condemnation of extremism and provocation - whether of Islamophobic cartoons or hateful placards. I was there for just over an hour. I was talking to people rather than listening to the speeches, though I did overhear George Galloway. He struck something of a jarring note, I thought, carrying on about how we will defend ourselves against tyranny and drawing comparisons between RESPECT and the anti-facist movement of the 1930's and generally carrying on as if he was some kind of saviour of Muslims. He came over as a publicity-mad politician instead.

I had a long and interesting talk with a young Muslim man who was giving away leaflets explaining Islam, and was being set about by a very rude Evangelical Christian man (who, it turned out was pretty theologically illiterate). I got drawn into the discussion which was respectful and knowledgable on the Muslim man's side and aggressive and rambling on the Christian man's side. Eventually the Muslim leaflet man and I moved away and continued our chat away from him as Mr Evangelical was turning into an embarrassing foaming loon. We talked about war, peace, the Old and New Testament and Qu'ran, Darwinism and the Nicene Creed amongst other things. We forgot to ask each other's names for some reason.

It was a relief to see a large, peaceful, sincere demonstration of ordinary Muslims - Trafalgar Square was pretty full - I was blogging earlier this week about how frustrating it is when all you see is images of angry young Muslims waving extremist banners or being charged in court. The cartoons clearly caused great offence: when I talked to people I found a great sincerity when they spoke of their feelings.There no sense of people 'affecting' their anger and sense of insult - it was real, heartfelt. I don't think this is all about the cartoons through - I talked to about 6 other people besides the guy with the leaflets, and there was frequent mention of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan too and depressed suspicion that another war was brewing with Iran and Syria. There was talk of a war on Islam. There was incredulity at the actions of the suicide bombers and people mentioned their reaction to the offensive banners waved last week ( 'Europe is the Cancer... 7/7 is on its way' etc).
'They are not proper Muslims, this makes it so difficult for us' I was told again and again. I said I knew that. (I didn't mention my personal experiences on 7th July).

I've been given a CD, of sung Islamic prayers, as a parting gift. I read the leaflets on the tube home. They gave a basic guide to the principles of Islam and stressed the peaceful nature of the Prophet Mohammed, (peace be upon him). I'm glad I went along, even though it was freezing. I haven't been to a demo in Trafalgar Square since July 14th, when there was a very moving vigil of London United Against Terrorism. Which many Muslims attended. Being back in Trafalgar Square reminded me so much of that week in July - I was quite moved as I thought of all that had happened since then.

It really cheered me up to see so much common sense and calmness: I was a bit nervous about going at first in case a) it was for Muslims only, or b) the damn extremists had got in and started causing trouble and being inflammatory. But it was fine, it was very inspiring and it encouraged me. I am glad I went.

Peace be upon you all, in the spirit of what I heard repeated many times today.

Go Justin!

Justin is on top form at the moment. I am loving the John Reid piece.

And this is the most wonderfully-written thing about health MOTS

And you may well enjoy this too. Go read & enjoy...

Friday, February 10, 2006

This too will pass

Thank you for all the comments and reactions to the previous post. An anonymous commenter has made an interesting point about the fundementalist version of Islam being pushed in some prisons and the radicalisation of angry young men. He says,

' The problem for Muslims as a whole is that the fundies are claiming to be better Muslims... All their actions are backed by quotations from the Koran. Of course, you can do this with any religous text - I recommend you read up what the leaders of Bhuddism is Japan got up to in the 30'..... Unless you have a very deep knowledge of the Koran, it is very hard to argue back with someone quoting verses at you. Interestingly, in Sudan, they tried getting genuine Imamms to talk to captured terrorists. Generaly it took him about half an hor to convince *them* that their view of Islam was wrong.....The Anon'

Hum. I studied Theology for a while, and I will always be grateful for the chance to be able to study texts in details, read different opinions, hear critical voices, have a deeper understanding of sources in context. Not only was it interesting and challenging, but it meant that when faced with implacable fundementalists you have some useful tools to counter, to engage and to analyse. And to fight back.

The problem with - and perhaps the initial lure of - fundementalist versions of any religion is that all the interpretation is done FOR you and only simple unquestioning acceptance is demanded. I suppose that can be a relief. Debate is 'unnecessary'. Disagreement is seen as 'sinful' or 'heretical'. (I keep thinking of Europe before the Reformation. Despite all the efforts of the Church and those in power to crush it, in the end people forced change. Why? Because being able to read the sacred texts in the vernacular, instead of a foreign language, having access to the wealth of scholarship surrounding those texts, having an understanding of history and context was in the end more fulfilling - spiritually and intellectually - than simply memorising by rote an interpretation of scripture which requires no intellectual engagement.)

Men and women are not blank wax tablets to be imprinted, they have minds and hearts and personalities, as well as souls. You can experience a blissful Submission to what is Holy without becoming a robot, parroting an uncritical, literal fundementalist interpretation that you have not even questioned.

Why so afraid of letting people think? What will happen when their hearts and minds engage? Why insist that they meekly accept what they are told? Who benefits from such submission? God, or Man?
Learning by rote without questioning infantalises people. It is dangerous to demand unquestioning acceptance of anything - and anyway, it doesn't work.
In time, the 'heretic' questions will be too hard to ignore: the reformation, the revolution will come. Humans cannot be endlessly ground down and told not to think/what to think by despots, whether the despots call themselves Popes or Priests or Kings or Presidents or Fundementalist faith leaders. History shows us, again and again, the crumbling of overly-authoritarian regimes and the collapse of every Ozymandias.

O'Brien tells Winston Smith in 1984 '' If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.'' So despots and the power-crazed have told their subjects for thousands of years. But what makes us human, what makes us 'Children of God' - if you believe in God - or what makes us noble and fully human if you do not - what gives us a future is our ability to transcend suffering, to draw together to resist evil.

There is always hope. Always, a light, however deep the darkness. I believe that people of whatever faith - or none - have the ultimate common sense to recognise when evil men preach ''freedom'' and mean slavery, when they preach ''holiness'' and mean hate, when they preach ''purity'' and mean separation- and to recognise that ultimately such men will fail.

Let us not be sidetracked here; we have much more in common than we have dividing us. There will always be those who tell us not to ask questions, of ourselves or each other. Who say they, and only they, speak the truth, the only truth. And there will always be those who follow such men. But to give over your critical faculties to another is to lose your humanity. To hollow out the heart, to make a willing vacuum of the soul, to absolve oneself of choices, of feelings, of the compassion that bites and tears and makes us real may seem easy but it is a slow and uneasy living death.

I wrote this once:

'Resentment and anger are the breeding ground for the pitiless narcissism that I believe lies at the heart of human evil, where you choose to deaden your empathy towards others and elevate your personal beliefs over any concern for the human consequences of your actions.'

Those who preach hate must rely on people's fear to make them follow them. Whether they talk of the 'Crusader West' or the 'Axis of Evil' - all they want is power. Power over other people to make them do their bidding: power, power, power. It is the all, it is the only end-game. Whatever the cost. However it ends. They become drunk with it. Perhaps laughing at them is a way to puncture their pomposity? Any leader who demands unswerving obedience and will not allow debate - or laughter - or questioning - is a tyrant. And all tyrants fall, in the end.

Not everyone wants to seize power. It can be easier to focus on your 'victimhood', on the injustices you feel you have suffered. It is tempting to blame all your misfortunes on an Other who oppresses you, who must be hated or feared. It is a powerful lure to say, for example, that Muslims are oppressing the West, or that the West is oppressing the Ummah. You can feel powerful by offending, powerful when you take offence. When you divide the world into 'goodies' and 'baddies', as a child does, when you present a set of rules that must be followed for your own safety, you might feel more comfortable, but you have missed out on all the nuances. You are locking yourself into a binary prison of your own making. You are telling yourself the simple reassuring stories of childhood. You might feel safer, but are you truly free?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Offensive caricatures

Demonstrating your right to free speech by publishing nasty little racist doodles? That aren't funny, but are just pointlessly offensive?

Then...protesting about offensive stereotypes by behaving like an offensive stereotype?

Demonstrating your fury about the key figure of Islam being represented as a murderous suicide bomber *dressing as a suicide bomber and calling for murder? (* turns out that particular clown is a convicted drug dealer on licence from prison for selling cocaine and heroin. So clearly someone who has utterly failed to grasp any of the principles of Islam then. Idiot.)

For God's sake. For pity's sake.

The right to protest and the right to free speech are bloody important: it is sickening to see both sides abusing these rights in this way, behaving like spiteful, selfish children. Especially now.

Why can't people pull themselves together?

The Religious Policeman is excellent on the subject. The memo is superb, but the whole site deserves a leisurely read. Hat-tip, troubled diva

7 years. 7 months. Love & Happiness.

I am typing this with a big smile on my face:

Seven years to the day since we first met (at a party) - and seven months after I thought I was dead, my honey asked me to marry him. And I said yes. Of course.

He asked me in a Mexican restaurant in the middle of the Red Light District.
I don't think either of us ate anything.
It was brilliant. Totally unexpected. I nearly collapsed with shock and excitement.

We had such a wonderful time in Amsterdam. We stayed at the Hotel Port Van Cleve right in the centre of town. After being kept up all night by men using pneumatic drills in 24-hour roadwork frenzy, we asked to move and were given the bridal suite, with a huge jacuzzi. Thereafter it just got better and better. I have floated home, leaving my beautiful diamond ring in Amsterdam to be made a little tighter - it will be couriered over tomorrow. My phone is full of text messages ( all the ones from girls start 'oh my GOD!...' ) and J and I are going to curl on the sofa and watch Lost. I don't think I will be able to concentrate on the plot much though. I'm too happy. I love him so much.
I'm really, really happy. Hurray!