Monday, August 31, 2009

Diplomacy and Lies

The London Times, sadly, offers us the following today. "The row over the early release of the Lockerbie bomber ten days ago shows no sign of abating after the Ministry of Justice indicated that the decision to include al-Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement had been made with the possibility of trade deals with Libya in mind. The negotiations over a prisoner transfer agreement were part of a wider agreement (trade, oil, nuclear non-proliferation, perhaps?) for the 'normalisation of relations' with Libya as part of bringing them into the international community.''
How awfully sporting of us, and how ineffably stupid our political masters believe us to be. Spin has become an almost mandatory gambit whereby the insecure coax themselves into an Orwellian doublespeak which is delusional, immature and dishonest.

Smokescreening is not confined to the British Isles, however. Hamas has attacked the UN, alleging the organisation planned to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust, but the UN agency which runs schools in the enclave has hitherto not confirmed any curriculum changes. Calling the Shoah "a lie invented by the Zionists," Hamas wrote in an open letter to a senior UN official that he should withdraw plans for a new history book in the UN schools. Ah. Should he, indeed. I wonder if those labouring under Hamas' bitter and mendacious rule ever wonder if they are being lied to also. The cartoon is clumsy, misleading and, oh, yes. Immature and dishonest.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Surviving Ramadan

Here we go again. The Holy Month of Ramadan is upon us. This year, falling as it does from mid August to mid-September, we have longer days and shorter nights, where the malls stay open till 3am and people drive suicidally bug-eyed and with blood sugar so low their ankles swell during the later hours of daylight. Expats are, for the most part, bewildered, when eating a banana in the street can (and sometimes does) earn the wayward and undisciplined infidel a visit to the local calaboose for the remainder of the season, without air conditioning. Not tempting, thus crazed and sinful activities like smoking cigarettes must be done behind closed doors. Like sex.
A Kuwaiti friend, somewhat disingenuously, offered these survival tips:
1. Leave the house a half hour in advance. If you can't beat them [sic], leave work or school after everyone has gone, which 'might be a bit of a downer...' Indeed so. On the other hand, don't leave the house at all.
2. Try to host activities in your home. Goody. Friday night is Strip Scrabble. I can't tell you what you have to do for a doubled triple word score...
3. Pray and 'do good deeds'. Excellent. A heartfelt prayer in the direction of the blind Jehu's to make it quick and clean, followed by queuing up to push the wheelchair-bound old lady out on to the traffic island where she can remain in comfort for several hours in the sunshine, waiting for another pilgrim, equally spiritually enthused, to take her to the other side of the road, only one good deed per day per person being allowed.
4. Buy your Eid outfit now. Since properly Irish carousal is forbidden, perhaps a new tee shirt in a dark colour where the chocolate spillage won't show...I really can't wait.

Human beings are narcissistic little creatures, colonising the Earth from Antarctica to Angola, although the practicalities of a summer Ramadan in high latitudes with twenty-four hours of daylight elude me. We're quite good about self-denial; if there ain't no fish we don't eat. A cockroach does even better. Capable of surviving for months without food and remaining clinically alive minus its head for weeks, who are a few Muslims to complain when celestial room service goes AWOL?
The image shows the dire consequences of smoking in public.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beside the Seaside

John H Glover-Kind wrote the famous old music hall song in 1907. With the exception of multicoloured fairy lights, casting reflective splashes at night on the waters of the boating lake, little structurally seems to have changed. Culturally, however, the changes are profound. Wooden boats have gone, huge plastic swans have taken their place. Vast, well-sprung perambulators have been replaced by space age buggies, starched nannies and beparasoled ladies have disappeared, loud Eastenders in Versace copies and flipflops have taken their place. Children with improbable, porcupine haircuts attempt to destroy the gaudy toys bought for them from shops selling ticketed gewgaws. What’s all this about? Being English, I suppose. I find myself drowning in a welter of mediocrity, cultural blurring and lack of social cohesion or initative. I wish I knew what being English actually meant, the rules posted on the clubhouse door so that I could sign up before entry and feel that I belonged. As it is, I’m quite a well-dressed foreigner, it seems.

Ran across this today. India is a genuinely rainbow nation, but has a unique cultural identity and seems in some way that the UK does not, to know where it is headed. Determined, resourceful people are still doing the job of nation building, sixty two years on.

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance .... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."

From the historic All India Radio broadcast Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

Happy birthday, India.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Yours or Mine

Living abroad, one link with the motherland - let's not go quite as far as calling it 'home' - is the World Service. Brits are past masters of underdog support - it fuels all kinds of colonial superiority - and the masterful reporting from East Jerusalem - not 'occupied' - we'll get to that in a moment - is a prime example. The juxtaposition of the eviction of two (not nine) Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, in response to a Supreme Court ownership ruling, which caused widespread world condemnation with the Israeli police recommendation that the far-right foreign minister, Avi Lieberman, be charged with corruption, bribery and money - laundering is significant. I found it clumsy and offensive.
Lieberman lives in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
East Jerusalem has never been under Jordanian sovereignty and thus it cannot be argued that it is 'occupied territory', merely 'disputed'. The non-Jews cannot argue for sovereignty, since the contender is not a state in its own right, and Islamic conquest ended with the First World War. Historic ownership is as legally binding in respect of property as it is to restoration of fine art looted by the Nazis to their rightful Jewish owners. Jordan may have given the properties to Arabs allegedly through right of conquest, but it wasn't theirs to give. Additionally, the State of Israel seeks no claim on Arabs who legally own property in West Jerusalem.
The rocking horse may have belonged to one of the evictees' children. Nice little touch in the name of balance and bias, Auntie. Why not take a picture or two of synagogues in East Jerusalem? Oh, yes. There aren't any, are there. The Jordanians systematically demolished them because they were 'an offence against Islam'.
By way of a little light relief, I heard this one the other day...

In an hypothetical future, when peace and a place at the table has been granted, the following might or might not happen.

At the U.N., a representative from Israel began to speak. " I want to tell you a story about Moses." he said. " When he struck the rock and water gushed out, he thought, 'What a good opportunity to have a bath!' He removed his clothes, put them aside on the rock and entered the water. When he got out, his clothes had vanished. A Palestinian had stolen them."

The Palestinian representative jumped up furiously and shouted, "What are you talking about? The Palestinians weren't even there then."

The Israeli representative smiled and said "Now that that's perfectly clear, I'll begin..."

Ho, ho, ho.