Don’t tread too softly.

In an age of political correctness, we are in danger of losing sight of ingenuity and new thinking.  Amongst the revisionists are all sorts of extremes, some trying to rewrite history, some trying to limit new horizons.

We must open our collective consciousness to new ideas and new sentiments even if, at first we find the ideas strange, puzzling or even repugnant.  The idea that any expression that may offend anyone should be avoided is ridiculous.  Consider the following; The Christians defaced Palmyra long before ISIS, Christianity was barbarous and cruel during the reformation and in earlier times, the theory of evolution is denied in many fundamentalist education systems.  The British Empire was largely funded on slave labor. All these statements are fact, many of them difficult to accept.

However, ‘that  Black folk in America get a rotten deal from law enforcement officials,  President Trump is unfit to be the leader of the free world’, are more contentious perhaps, but worthy of balanced debate.

There is reasonable and credible evidence to support these premised arguments but there are also alternative views. For example:

“Black folks in America live in less privileged communities that are more susceptible to criminal behavior, therefore Black Americans are more likely to be on the wrong side of the law.”

“President Trump is a radical thinker who is genuinely creative and essentially an honest man who says it like it is.”

The first is ill-informed, but nonetheless worthy of expanded debate, whilst the second is legitimate especially for those who ‘believe’ in their new President.

There are many of us who have beliefs that preclude either of these premises, but that should not excuse us from trying to understand where the protagonists are coming from. Cool heads and open minds are what is needed to hear, listen, engage and perhaps change opinion.

Who decides, what is offensive or not?  I think we have to temper our receptors and be brave enough to accept and listen to all shades of opinion, despite the fact, that there are those who are unduly influenced on either side of the moral spectrum.  Perhaps you will listen to preachers of hate and firmly reject them, others may be more susceptible and be influenced by these evil messengers. Likewise, the fundamental zealots of any religion see themselves and their messages as beyond criticism, hence to some of us, the denial of evolutionary theory is nonsense.

Who guards the gates of moral rectitude? We all do but be prepared to tolerate views that are not our own.  Be prepared to think about what these new ideas really mean.  Accept or reject them, but only after considered thought.  Don’t be afraid of the verbal bullies, gaging them won’t help, let them speak everyone deserves a platform of freedom.

 

Listen to the crying child.

Listen, can you hear the children cry?

From earthquake street or Yemen’s misery

Do you hear the mother’s scream of pain?

As Aung Sang Suu Kyi lies, staring blindly on.

Do you hear the whimpers of the dying child?

As drugs so needed rush too late to their breathless side.

Do you hear the mother’s tears that soak the ground?

In tortured villages that ISIS found.

Do you hear the cries of empty bellies?

In Bangladesh’s soaking drowning fields

Can you hear the buzzing bombs?

That flatten towns and schools.

Listen! Listen! – Will you reply?

To quiet the cries of that child of ours.

A new charter for the planet.

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Monsoon flooding, refugee crisis not to mention the threat of nuclear war.  These are some of the catastrophes that face our planet this September day.  Add to that the deliberate acts of terror and one wonders if the human condition has a future.  Indeed does it deserve a future?

Amongst the most distressing issues are the deliberate acts of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, sundry acts of terrorism as well as the chaos in Africa and the consequent mass migration.  These are human catastrophes which are the result of human behaviour.  These can be fixed if the human race in aggregate wants to fix them. The U.N. is the evolved institution that is at the centre of world order, and it (the UN) clearly is struggling to maintain any discipline or uniformity of behaviour democratic or otherwise.

Behind the raison d’etre for the UN is the keeping of the peace and the rule of international law and the relief of human disaster.  There is a constant struggle against the differences rather than the similarities of the international community.  Some would say, that nationalism and religious fundamentalism are the key areas of conflict and they may be right,

However, this is an impossibly complex set of issues that harbour the yet more complex matters such as competitive individual and national needs. The management of relative wealth, education, health and welfare all crowd in, an accident of geography seems to mitigate against relative success. In addition, there are the vagueries of leadership and they range from unpredictable populism to totalitarianism.  The rulers ofNorth Korea and Zimbabwe are just two examples where the great mass of the world’s opinion agree that they are just plain wrong.  The former in addition to routine murder and torture of its citizens is threatening nuclear catastrophy whilst the latter is a matter of plain thievery and the wrecking of a prospering economy. There are many other examples of rulers and communities who to the majority of world opinion believe them to be wrong.

Wrong is a big word, and conditioned by the definition of what ‘right’ means.  Sadly, on the one hand, things like women’s’ rights, freethinking, are accepted in some nations they are not in others.  The death penalty is still used in numerous states, dictators seem to be able to rise to power in the vacuum of ignorance.

The U.N. is all we have, it is certainly imperfect.  However, it exists and the institution is the only forum for all these varied and complex conditions to be aired.  Messrs Trump, Mwgabe, Kim Jong Un, and others can have a theatre where their ideas are aired.  The UN has also limited powers of intervention and an inglorious history of failure.

Nevertheless, the UN is the only hope we’ve got, so lets all support it in any way we can, for without it the world would be an even more chaotic planet.

In the age of the obscure.

I have this morning spent hours trying to perform relatively easy computer transactions.  Well, they should be easy but they are not.  They are not because they are structured in ways that are unfathomable to the ordinary man – not to say man over 50 – 60-even 70!

Airlines reward programs are particularly prone to making the customer give up, it is patently obvious to a donkey that British Airways, for example, do not want their clients to benefit from their reward program if they can possibly avoid it.  The reward program becomes not a loyalty earner but an aggravation which has the opposite effect.

In my case, enough was enough so I thought I’d take my Avios and invest them in the Avios company.  Guess what? This company is, even more, obscurantist that the airline.

After hours of phone calls and so-called live chats, I was driven to despair and abandoned the fight for another day.

Is this the way it’s meant to be?  I think not.  It seems the evolution of computer geeks and misguided marketeers has conspired to self-destruct what was once a good idea. Add to those low-paid correspondents who chat remotely, they are exactly that, remote and largely disinterested in anything other than automaton like responses.

Where has all the real brand loyalty gone?  Yes, it’s tough to make a buck, but should formerly well-regarded companies like BA join the race to the bottom.  Not only that they are using devices that are deliberately obscure and customer unfriendly.  Wake up this is NOT the way.

Poetry – harbinger of joy or tears.

Looking back at some of my  poems, none I may add, acclaimed by anyone, I am surprised at the ups and downs reflected there.

There are many who find poetry a balm and sometimes a boost and even a spark in the darkest of places. This piece tries to identify with the darkest places, unlike some poems it offers no solace, just a recognition how bad things can be. There is ambivalence about the subjective ‘us’ victim or persecutor or even observer content to sit on our hands

 –    There’s black in every heart‘      is one of those where I try to share the deep hopelessness and sadness that can prevail  in the most difficult times and moods. The reason I wrote the poem is still vivid in my mind, I have since been overtaken by happy and glorious times .  But the goings on in Myanmar remind me of the darkness we can all feel. I pray that those who suffer will be delivered from their earthly hell.  Please can we all help – in any way at all.

 

 

  There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun

  There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

  It spins and pulls the light away

Sending hurtful splinters

Anywhere, even at the things we love,

things so fragile.  Too late, – we realize

Another hateful arrow finds

a random target and despair surrounds us

It spins and pulls the light away.

Looking out we can see nothing

other than that loathsome pity for ourselves.

There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun.

Who cares what hurt that we have done,

what flower cut down, what trust betrayed?

There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

They talk of hope, they have none.

Not while this black hole burns coldly in our souls.

It spins and pulls the light away.

There is no light,

We choose to blind ourselves and turn away,

There’s black in every heart, it spins like the sun

Alone in our individual anguish,

misery and icy loneliness.

There lurks the antimatter to our joy

Don’t pity us,

We are below deserving.

It spins and pulls the light away.

Fear us for we can

spoil and smear and desecrate.

There lurks the antimatter to our joy.

Don’t give us love

We don’t need it; We shall hide,

here in the blackness of our hearts.

 

Thick-skinned writers.

Let’s face it we’re not all great writers.  In fact very few of us are.  Nevertheless, we persevere and produce labours of love in whatever form we think we are good at.

When our major work, which has sometimes taken years to complete, is done there remains an almost universal desire to seek the approbation even admiration of our friends’ colleagues and readers. How then are we to react when our work is considered poor?

The reasons why our readers find it so are many and various, some deserved some perhaps not as valid as others.  Nevertheless,  criticism can hurt.  There’s no use denying it.

Is there a defense mechanism that can help us ward off the hurt?  Probably not, but what we can do, is go again.  Write some more, but when we do we should if possible take yesterdays’ criticism as tomorrow’s guideline, at least to some extent.  If we are to write anything worthwhile we have to believe that one day someone will read what we’ve written and say: “Hey, that was worth my time.” That’s possibly the greatest compliment of all, we filled their moments with words that exercised their minds and made them think,  enquire, cry, laugh or even be amazed. This is the challenge every writer faces and very few writers achieve.

I hear you say, that’s ‘baloney’.  I don’t think it is, but equally, I believe that the business of writing has become a very tough place to be.  The commercial mainstream demands excellence in well-trodden genres, yet there are still astonishing breakthroughs.  However, it remains true that the readers enjoy the hero rather than the anti-hero,  that readers have habits and areas of comfort where they are comfortable.  Do we, as writers, want to follow or lead. That is the question each one of us has to answer.

The thing is, we’re all storytellers, and some stories are better than others. It is the unpredictable that makes us tick, the ability to wander around in the frontier-less expanses of our minds.  No one has been there before, and no one but us can tell where the stories will lead. Good for us, let’s write another one. Somebody somewhere might like it.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Why?  We thought we had a truly democratic leader who above all believed in the rights of all people. Yet Aung San presides over one of the most blatant acts of ethnic cleansing seen for many years.  This woman was an example to us all, a Nobel laureate of worldwide renown, a colossal human being who had shown us that peace and patience can win the day. She was much respected as a diplomat and as leader of the National League for Democracy.

I do not know why this ghastly episode of Rohingya persecution is being carried out under her reign as the Prime minister of Myanmar.  Is it because she is a puppet of the Military rulers?  Is it because she is afraid of confronting her Buddist followers who by and large loathe the Muslim minority Rohingyas?  Is it because now that she has achieved her role as the first minister of her country she is too comfortable to care?

In the seventy-plus years, I have spent on this planet this is for me one of the great disappointments of my life.

Please, Please Aung San Suu Kyi, make me eat my words.