Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Friday, 30 January 2015

Jogging Jim and the Patriotic Imperial Masters...

My latest SSP Podcast!

In this podcast: SSP Spokeswoman, Sandra Webster on her experiences of being a carer in Tory ruled Scotland, me on the patriotic fracking nonsense of the labour party, Lewis Akers on being a young SSP activist and Tommy Ball with this weeks political round up. 


Roy Moller from his  latest album, My Week Beats Your Year, on Stereogram recordings -  “Captivity.”
The Cathode Ray – “Resist” and Vatersay Love Song – “St Christopher,” also on Stereogram recordings.

Joe Solo - No Pasaran (The Ballad of Jack Atkinson) And his track with Rebekah Findlay – We will be free

The Wakes, “These Hands.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Greece Two; new SSP podcast

...edited and presented by me!  The second episode from Greece -

On the night that Syriza, the radical left party in Greece win at the polls, SSP activist Tommy Ball explains the implications this will have across Europe and Colin Fox reports from the celebrations on the ground in Athens!
Music from The Manics, The Wakes and Frightened Rabbit...


Friday, 23 January 2015

A podcast I made!

I just recorded a podcast for the SSP, featuring Colin Fox in Greece, Alan Wylie on the £10 minimum wage and music from Thee Faction, The Wakes, UB40 and The Smiths...  Oh and a wee bit on UKIP and Sandra Webster on hope!


or use the player below!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Torches of Freedom

I really like this image.  It is a clever image.  A manipulative one - good photography and marketing should be.  But I think it is important to know when you are being manipulated.  And this image entitled, "Rosa Luxemburg, Simone de Beauvoir, and Emma Goldman at the beach, 1930s manipulates on many levels.

One of the many problems with the image is that the women's rebellion- smoking pipes- was something the tobacco industry had planned. If you look at this image and think, "attractive rebellion," you have been manipulated.  You have reacted in the way the marketing company wanted you to.

You had been manipulated by Edward Bernays into believing smoking = freedom/rebellion etc. Bernays was employed by the tobacco industry to widen a saturated market.  He used women dressed as suffragettes and women enjoying their "freedom" to bring the cigarette out into the open.  Like youth culture ambushed; rebellion that had been real - against staid, adult, middle class run society, capitalist society latched on and sells the rebellion back.  Recently, rock ' n' roll, mods, ska, punk, emo, goth etc - have all been latched on to by capitalist society and sold back to us. Tamed and used as devices to sell stuff.  The three women supposedly walking on the beach never met - that was impossible. This was a tobacco promotion photo. Interesting though, that it has been rehashed and sold as something it clearly cannot be.

Bernays "Torches of Freedom" campaign still rolls out today, it's success from its inception in 1929 is proven by the statistics of women smokers and the women in respiratory units in hospitals across the world.

Like most marketing, how "rebellion" is sold to us is exploitative. And the biggest exploitation comes with the legal drugs industries tobacco and alcohol and aimed at young people going through rebellion and identity formation. Watching how "vapers" are manipulated into believing they are in control and are not harming themselves is the most recent Bernays style manipulation. "I'm being healthier." "I'm harming no-one." "This is my right!" The most insidious aspects of Marlboro man and "Freedom Torches," have returned, though the smoking indoors is being sold as the new "freedom."

I think as bad as this is, alcohol marketing is insidious. Alcohol has one immediate effect -drunkenness, and many after effects that cause disease and debilitation But it is marketed at different sections of society in subtly different shades of "decadence." White Lightening Cider, spirits with gold floating in them, creamy liqueurs, real ales, wine snobbery, Saturday night beers, Friday night glass of red wine, Friday night luminescent teenage fizzy pop and Glasgow street wines -all targeted at people to make them think, "fun," "decadence," "rebellion" "identity" and necessity. This stuff is necessary to have fun on a beach, in a club, sitting by a warm fire, with a gourmet meal, with a curry, swirling in a glass while uttering meaningless adjectives.

If the risks to your health don't worry you;  these drugs that are the biggest killers we ingest, perhaps you should think about how you are manipulated to ingest them. Once you start noticing how our society sells you these things, maybe you will rebel.

The interesting thing about this image, is how many people buy into it, even if it was not "re-imagined" as the three women it impossibly places together. How many people are manipulated by the "rebelliousness" of the three obviously reasonably well off, pretty women with their pipes? The photo was taken at a time when women were taking back their rights from a skewed society - but the skewed society was using this fact to sell tobacco. 

The image crops up across the net - and has done for a few years - I reposted it on facebook a few years back.  It is attractive, but it is selling something in a very clever way.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Food for Thought - 1981.

My friendships outside of school had started to change. Once, my friends after school were completely different from who I messed around with in school. We started to tribal-ize.  Mickey and the rest had started to do stuff with their school mates and I had began to stretch my horizons to other parts of the town - and beyond. And the Roller-hole, as we called it- or Banbridge Roller Drome to give it it's real name- took up a lot of my time. Not so much "the place to be," but the place we shouldn't be. Its reputation amongst parents in Banbridge, as the late seventies met the early eighties, was as a place for the wild. The drinkers. The smokers. The hustlers.  Bikers.  Punks.  The "gamers," though that term was not yet invented.   I was too young to drink – and didn’t for most of the Roller Drome’s short existence.  I feel the reputation was not one it deserved.  But parents watching their teenagers stretch their wings worry about their haunts.

Me, 1981, doing one of my favourite things...

Banbridge Roller Drome  was on the site of The Castle Ballroom which had had its heyday in the sixties and seventies.  This paradise for young, bored people could be seen in the context of a move towards the way young people interact today.  We were brought in from the cold.  This space allowed us in a “religious society,” a secular place of congregation, comradeship, without having to sneak into pubs and clubs and away from the youth clubs attached to churches.  It was a place that offered craic with others.  It always had been an interface – a place of the camaraderie of communal music – and that very venue of cross-community harmonious music, at one time, had come under murderous attack when the Miami Showband played the Ballroom and were attacked by terrorists on their way home.  Attacked by people who didn't want us to live normal, fraternal lives.

Banbridge circa 1981.  The Roller Drome would be on the left of this picture.

Same view of Banbridge today (via google Images)

To enter, you walked up a grand, marble look staircase.  The place smelled of cigarettes, burgers and cleaning chemicals.  At the top of the stairs, there were a myriad of rooms – in front of you, a side room with a pool table, and the main old ballroom past that, had been converted into the roller skating rink.  If you turned right at the top of the stairs, you could go into a room with pinball machines and video games.  And through the door from that was a café with a room off that with three or four full sized snooker tables.  The stairwell was surrounded by video games.  And the noises depended on the time of day.  If you arrived straight after school, it hummed with chat and electronic games and pinball sound effects.  A little later, loud music permeated nearly every other room from the roller-disco.  And in the café and snooker room, the jukebox played the choices of the less energetic of us. 

Nowadays young people sit in their rooms talking to each other through microphones and play their online games. Back in 1981, we had to have a pocket full of 10p's to become heroes at Space Firebird, Crazy Climber and Donkey Kong. And we met, physically. The Roller hole was a melting pot of all three secondary schools in Banbridge, though few Banbridge  Academy pupils came to it. Well, there were a few from there- those working class people who had been good enough at "verbal reasoning tests" to pass the 11 plus. The majority of us were from my school, (which had went through three name changes since I had started it- from Banbridge Intermediate School, which got the name, "Intereejit school," Banbridge Secondary School, and now Banbridge High School) and St Patrick's High School, the local catholic secondary education school. And that melting pot- that interface where all of us young people who had been living side by side, then split into a dreadful sectarian/grammar school, class system of day time prison, brought us in contact with girls from another planet. At least that's what they seemed like out of their uniforms.  And uniforms and identity usually divided in Northern Ireland. 

 Outside of school I dressed in jeans, trainers and my army jacket. I, like everyone in the roller hole, hoped I looked different, though as teenagers are prone to do – we dressed in our tribal wear.  The good thing about teenaged tribal wear, especially in the dark days of the troubles, was that it brought the uniformed tribes together that those dividing us didn’t like to see.  The outsiders in the Rollerdrome were those who criticized it’s religious interface.  It was a place none of us noticed the sectarian division. And dressed like this, I  wasn't the nerd who was beaten black and blue in first, second and third year- and as some of the wildest, insanest people left to go to "The Tech," (Banbridge Technical College), I started to feel freer. I felt like I wanted to show my identity to the world, and my band badges covering the pockets of my South Korean army coat, started that transition. My love of Joy Division, Blondie, Toyah, Ultravox, The Human League, The Undertones, The Pretenders, The Ramones and communism where what would make me cool. And my want to leave this place would make me interesting. And my ability to skate and get high scores on Space Defender and Donkey Kong would surely be seen as cool.

She was amazing on roller skates. Singing "It feels like, it feels like I'm in love," skating backwards, with her eyes closed; spinning, and her legs crossing and zig-zagging to the music.   And I noticed she knew all of the words of "Eighth Day." She was confident.  Carefree and looked rebellious.  And I wanted to skate and sing to impress. But learning was hard and expressing yourself so openly was not what we guys did. We skated coolly, hands in pockets, if at all.  At least, I, wobbly, tried to.

I remember she went on and on about Ali Campbell. I liked UB40, well, what I had heard at the time, but I couldn't interrupt. I listened to her, sagely nodding, smiling until my face ached. She didn't like Adam and The Ants, which was ok by me. Secretly I liked them. Outwardly, I agreed that they were a kids band.

My cousin thought UB40 were great, but he was into heavy metal. Whitesnake, had we heard of them? Iron Maiden? The girls, exotic, cool, knowing nodded, but said they preferred music with a message or something you could skate to.

They were from St Patricks. It didn't matter to me, the sectarian aspect of that; well, it mattered in that they wouldn't know me. It mattered that they were from a tribe that was for some reason not my tribe. They had never seen me getting my head kicked in. I could be who I liked. I could be the me school didnt allow me to be.

"Do you know what UB40 means?"

My cousin did. I hadn't a clue.  I knew it was political.  Mike Read had said something that alluded to that on the Radio One Breakfast show.

"Aye. I'm signing on soon," he said.  “I fucking hate school.  I’m out of it as soon as.”

"Where abouts in England are you from?"

"Warrington. Near Manchester."

"I hear you get more dole money over there..."

I didn't know the wee guy. He was from St Patricks too. He was wee and he didn't know me. I could be anyone I wanted.

"Don't be fucking stupid. He's from England, not a different country." Maybe I was too hard on him. The bullied being the bully.  He looked hurt.  I smiled at him.  I hadn’t meaned to sound so hard.

She looked at me. Her face changed.

"England is a different country. This is Ireland."

Her eyes held mine. Daring me. Though I had no idea what she was daring me. She dared me to say something but I had no clue what. 

"Aye, I mean, like, their dole is the same as ours. Its the same all over the UK."

She looked at me warily.

"Has anyone got two 10p's for pool?" Her friend took the heat from me.

"20p for a game of pool? That's a rip off," I said, again too loudly.  I was relieved the conversation was moving away from something I was really uncomfortable with.  

My own views on my own country hadn’t been fully formed.  I knew what I was against… I didn’t like the political killing; I didn’t like the inequality; I didn’t like the Queen, but the counterargument from school mates that I, “must like the Pope then,” had to be looked into.  The Pope, surely, was a religious leader?  I didn’t like religion either.  How could I be “for the Pope,” if I thought religion was nonsense?  Was he political?  Was he Irish? I had quite liked the fact he had come to Ireland.  I had recently got into John Lennon.  Just before he had been shot.  I had bought his comeback single, “Starting Over,” played it to death, researched him and the Beatles; loved the words of Imagine and thought, “I believe that!” and then he had been shot, just months before.  I felt let down.  But I knew that that song distilled what I hoped the world would become.  And there was no mention of the Pope or Paisley or the Queen.

They laughed and flirted and we were cool and beat them in doubles in the first game.
"This time I'll be on your team," her friend pointed at my cousin. "You be on his."
She smiled at me. Was I forgiven?

My cousin smiled. "I need a cig first."

He took out a packet of Embassy Regal and passed them round. We all took one and he lit each of us before himself.

“I’ve got 50p. That’s four songs on the juke box.  Anyone want to help me choose?”  She jumped off the side of the pool table. 

“I will!”

I wanted to impress.  I punched in the number for “Eighth Day.”

“I love that song,” she smiled.

She punched in the numbers for “Food for Thought,” “Kids in America” and “The Tide is High.”  I approved.  Kids in America was a good tune, though even I realized the use of the word “America” was the record company’s way to try to break Kim Wilde into that huge market.  It was a New wave song, especially constructed to grab the same market of Blondie, though, the album Autoamerican showed Blondie were going in different directions.  I had bought it and had been a wee bit disappointed in it.  It had little of what Parallel Lines or their other albums had – pop-punk.  But nowadays, over 30 years later, it’s an album I still return to, with its mixture of huge sounds and jazz themes.  Tide is high was happy pop. 

We sat on the plastic chairs and dragged on the fags. I could feel the tobacco burn my throat. The taste was vile, but it was something I could do and passing fags around people I didn't like was usually a good way to stop some bastard from randomly smashing my nose on his knee.

I did. I taped the best of the top forty every Sunday night and listened to the best ones over and over again.

"They're weird. It's like a Christmas song. About Jesus and all," I said disdainfully.

"Aye, but don't you think they are amazing? They make you think!"

I laughed. "Aye, about Christmas dinner!"

She rolled her eyes. My cousin laughed.

I smiled, "Why? What's wrong?"

They all laughed. I went crimson.  I was outside.  They knew something I didn’t.  They had a shared target – me.

"Never mind, commie. C'mon and play another game a' pool!"  She threw the dog end of her fag on the floor and ground it into the wooden tiled, parquet floor.

I felt small. I felt I had missed something again, but I had no clue what.

She took the pool cue from me. "I'll break!"

"It is about Christmas," I said.
My cousin nodded. "It is, yes."
"What were youse laughing about?"
"Listen to it when you get in."
He stopped and took out another cigarette. "Want one?"
"No thanks."
"She fancied you though."
"What? No way! She thought I was an idiot."
"Aye, she thought you were an idiot, but she fancied you. Two different things."
"Her mate fancied you!"
"Aye, I know. But remember, I'm going out with someone at home."

They came back from the Café.

“We have to go, “ she said.

“OK,” I smiled. “We do too.”

We walked down the stairs and out onto Newry Street.

“We are going this way,” she pointed towards the Bridge. 

“Sure, we’ll go that way too, I can show my cuz around the town.” I winked at my cousin, because I knew he knew the town well.  He’d been coming here for years.

She shivered and I took my jacket off and gave it to her.  The two girls smiled. 

When we reached the bridge, she stopped and said, “We’ll see you again.  Thanks for your jacket.”  She handed it to me and they ran on, across the road and we watched them laugh and chat their way down Scarva Street.

She was in my head for a long time after that. I was fourteen.  I’d never felt that before.   I asked people in school about her, and found out who she was.  And I saw her from afar, in the Roller Drome and years later in The Coach,  that other melting pot for Northern Irish young people in their teens and twenties.  

And I found out the meaning of “Food for Thought,” and learned the words.  But I never spoke to her again.

The Roller Drome aka Castle Ballroom aka Circus Circus aka today's Lucky's Bingo Club, still bringing people together.
Since putting this piece together, I found out the man behind the Roller Drome was Harry Copeland.  Perhaps he didn't know that his business was the melting pot it was.  But he did a brilliant thing by opening this secular place for young people to come together.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Expensive. Taxi for Ms @joswinson!

My wife is a has a long commute. She works nearly fifty miles away from where we live. Where she works, there is no public transport she could take that would get her there on time every day, so she has to drive the nearly 100 miles a day. The fuel costs around £200 a month (todays prices) which, applying my Primary maths, is around £2500 a year (I added £100 just to round it up).

We think that is hugely expensive. Dreadful. If both of us were doing this, we'd spend £5000 a year. Add on to this our teenaged son; lets say he also decided to work 50 miles away and the three of us, travelling 100 miles a day, would cost our family £7500 a year.

A horrendous journey for all of us and a huge fuel bill.

Now, our prudent Lib Dem MP, Jo Swinson has been rather quick to defend her expenses over the past few years. And she has done well, after the accusations of buying ludicrous things were batted off.
And I quite understand, she can have a long commute to Westminster from Westerton. So imagine my surprise to read she has needed something called "business class taxis?" Surely a mistake?

This was in the Daily Mirror.

"Jo's cab's rank
Parliament’s official record has Consumer minister Jo Swinson revealing her department spent nearly £80,000 last year on “business class taxis”. Surely some mistake. How many taxis do you know, Jo, which offer economy and business class?"

#JeSuisCharlie? Or Racist, homophobic, sexist rag?

My original reaction on the day of the terrorist attacks HERE

After three days, it seems there are now a lot of UK experts on the magazine "Charlie Hebdo." I'd never heard of the magazine. I had heard of the Danish cartoons, which Hebdo republished-and those have a book worth of context from right wing racism through to right wing middle eastern warlords to talk about. It is questionable as to whether those cartoons, obviously being used to raise tensions by both right wing westerners and by middle eastern warlords, should have been re-printed (even as support of their right to exist as pieces of political statement). But that’s my *opinion.* And my opinion, as I find more information and have more dialogue about a very complex issue, more complex than has been perhaps spoken about in British narrative, may change.

As for Charlie Hebdo's own cartoons and its particular Parisian kind of "satire," what some British commentators are saying seems to be at odds with what French commentators are saying. The context of some of the cartoons have been explained to me- and without context, yes, the depictions on them without that context *look* racist.

“Charlie Hebdo is part of a tradition of serious satire in France, most of it much less comic or comforting than political satire in the US. Called "gouaille," "it's an anarchic populist form of obscenity that aims to cut down anything that would erect itself as venerable, sacred or powerful," Arthur Goldhammer, a French translator and author, wrote for Al-Jazeera America today.” Quote from HERE

On the Boko Haram cartoon-I wanted to know answers, not make assumptions. This was one quite a few of my lefty friends had taken exception too.

Like all satire I have enjoyed in the past,I know it can be mistaken by those it is attacking as something they support (eg The Pub Landlord, who attacks racism and "little britainism" is loved by some on the right; Loadsamoney during the eighties was held up as an ideal by some of those it was satirising, 'Til Death Us Do Part," etc) and at times by those it is defending it can be mistaken as attacking them. Add to this French culture, ie, unlike British culture that looks for a goodie and a baddie, French culture has more of an understanding and dialogue concentrating on the grey areas. Add to that, the Parisian culture of disdain for everything and everyone. I don't know enough yet to outright support Hebdo as a publication, but I certainly see enough grey to stop me from pronouncing it as racist. I do see it as provocative, and perhaps as an outsider as unnecessarily so. Hebdo, however, were operating in a wider context that many exploited and many knew enough of to get annoyed, or to rile others who had not enough of a historical understanding, eg the terrible French Algerian context.

I think it is really important to know context. This thread goes some way in doing so with one particular cartoon.


A friend I had a conversation with on fb said, “I have a friends who said the same. He said that the"cartoon was not an attack on women or Muslims, but an attempt to show the hypocrisy of the Frances right wing outrage at the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram, and the similar outrage against benefits being given to immigrant women, ie double standards. You would have to be a regular reader of Charlie, and follow French media, to understand the narrative behind the cartoons! It seems is a bit like racism+ Frankie Boyle x105 mins I must add that they are not racist, but they are willing to use racist language and symbolism, to highlight the issues."”

It is bringing two right wing issues together in one picture. What people have to try to do is NOT read a cartoon like they would read a photo (though, of course, photos can be read out of context as well). Satirical cartoons are complex. They make me uncomfortable, but so does Alf Garnett, a character right wing people quoted to back up their racism, when the intention was for him to say all of the ridiculous things racist people would say.

The bringing together of the two rt wing issues in the Boko Haram cartoon shows how ridiculous the right wing are. That's the point. The point was the opposite of what we read when we read it out of context. Those in France who know the Front National’s statements and the arguments and narrative in the press against them, would know the context of the cartoon. As outsiders we misread them. All art has exclusivity of time, culture and issue. Context.

Charlie Hebdo, Charb, was saying to the right,"you are crying crocodile tears over these kidnapped women, because you attack immigrants escaping Boko Haram as being "welfare queens." You can’t have it both ways – by trying to you are ridiculous."

This is the explanation I got from a French woman on facebook on another cartoon.  "The middle one [the Rassemblement Bleu Raciste one, shown below] once again attacks the Front National, it reads "rassemblement bleu raciste" which refers to Marine Le Pen's movement "rassemblement bleu Marine"; the cover basically attacks the cover of the FN's journal which has been condemned for racism for saying Taubira (the woman on the pic) was "smart as a monkey" (in french "maline comme un singe, elle retrouve la banane"). They call Le Pen's movement "blue racist" instead of "marine blue"."

The Bleu Raciste cartoon is pointing out how racist and absurd the Front National’s words are words are. The words on the cartoon show up and accuse Marine LePenn and her party of being racist. Context is everything. This shows the racism contained in a FN magazine cover in graphic form. In other words, it is EXPOSING racism. Showing how racist their words are.  Think of these cartoons as thought bubbles above the beads of a right winger, but labelled by an anti-racist.  Read out of context of the French headlines at the time, to us, it looks racist.

I think if we are attacking Charlie Hebdo, it should be, perhaps,  over their naivety in thinking everyone will understand their attacks on racism; understand their position on free speech and also naivety in hoping that an oppressed minority will understand what look like attacks on them as actually exposing the right wing attacks on them. But I also think we as commentators should understand what they were saying, rather than trying to decode their words using our existing uninformed semiotic cues. It is like saying the roadworks sign (below) is a person putting up an umbrella. If someone had never seen that sign, and  you asked them what it was, they could say that. But we know it isn't someone putting up an umbrella because we know the cues. It is part of our culture. We know the context.

Most of my friends are highly politicised within the Scottish UK context. We would understand a cartoon that showed for example, Jim Murphy dressed from head to toe in tartan, with a saltire painted face, burning a union flag. We know this would be a satire on his recently found "Scottish patriotism," and the cartoon would be showing, to those in the know, how ridiculous this patriotism is. However, to an outsider, it is a pic of a Scot burning a union flag.

Or, this picture of Murphy in his football colours, kicking Dianne Abbott, who he had a spat with this week, could look to some, in the wrong context, ie someone not being party to the Scottish/Westminster political landscape, as a racist attack by a raving nationalist Scotsman.

forgive the drawing!  Just to make a contextual point!

More explanations are on the comments section on my previous blog post http://plotsplot.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/je-suis-charlie-charliehebdo.html

I am not saying people do not have the right to be offended by Charlie Hebdo, but I think before the rush to condemn the magazine as “racist, sexist and homophobic,” we should be trying to understand what they were saying. Or at least trying to say.  I don’t know if they were or not. I just believe the story of this magazine is far more complex than we can rush to a judgment in three days.

I would argue we, as outsiders are perhaps not reading Hebdo in the way Parisians will understand it. Certainly the pictures I have looked into are intended to be what the thoughts of Front National look like when realised. Place them inside a thought bubble and then place the bubble above Marine lePenns head- and then put the words underneath her; that is an easier way for us as outsiders to the media/cultural discourse in France to understand their intention -which is to show the ridiculousness of how racists and right wing nationalists etc think.

“Tignous, a cartoonist killed in Wednesday's massacre, had previously said that the best cartoons not only make the reader laugh and think — they provoke "shame for having been able to laugh at such a serious situation." That was often the sentiment Charlie Hebdo aimed for.” Quote from HERE

Certainly the reported cover of the next issue bears that up.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie #CharlieHebdo

Wars should be fought using words, argument, debate and then tentative agreement/consensus. This makes solid a democracy that is free. That is the real victory.

Freedom of speech and acceptance of difference shows that a society values everyone’s opinion. Freedom, Liberté, does not come from a gun pointing at those who use words and drawings to disagree with you.

  Strength is not putting a bullet in the head of someone lying on the ground with their hands held up, pleading for their lives.

Trying to redact words, censor philosophy with bullets from a Kalashnikov cannot and will not work. Fighting beliefs with violence will only breed violence. Understanding does not happen in the spilling the life-blood of your opponent.

View image on Twitter
All cartoons from HERE

Clearly those who carried the executions of journalists and cartoonists in Paris have issues. These issues have led them to, through a process, to come to the conclusion that perceived attacks on their belief – or their group belief by cartoonists or journalists justifies the ending of human life.

I have always found political/sectarian/religious murder difficult to understand. When a people are colonised and as a result of colonisation are violated and enslaved, uprising is inevitable. And uprising against an uncompromising oppressor – an exploiting invader - can result in violence. If this violence was borne in an attack on oppressors who had enslaved, violated, raped, killed as part of their oppression, then there could be a perceived justification. If the oppressor silences and ghettoizes a community, violence is inevitable eventually. There could be seen to be reason for defensive- even offensive - attacks. 

I really cannot see justifiable reasons for attacking journalists in this way – regardless of how much you disagree with them.

This murderous attack was carried out on those armed only by pencils, felt-tips and laptops. They disagreed with fundamentalism – all fundamentalism. Journalists and cartoonists – fathers, mothers and children - who had challenged the imposition of fundamentalism on their society by writing satirically about it and by drawing pictures that challenged the fundamentalist view of a ‘higher entity.’ But only challenged it if you chose to read it – and if your belief is so solid, why would a cartoon really challenge your uncompromising belief in your version – or your group version -of your God?

The individuals who ended these lives in Paris today are sons or daughters, fathers, husbands, lovers; complex individuals. What made them take such a simplistic, warped, black and white view of the world – ie. this is my God whom I love and who loves me, you insult my God, you are evil, I defend my God, I don’t recognise your humanity, I kill you?

I was brought up in Northern Ireland. I never took a black and white view of the community around me, why, I don’t know. But my best friend as a child was a Catholic (I was from the protestant/unionist community). My family were never strongly wedded to the Loyalist/unionist view, in that we never went to Orange Parades, we had little connection to the Orange Order, we didn’t attend a fundamentalist protestant church (and in fact were loose attendees to church) and some of my family voted on class lines – which usually meant voting for a party that was not their perceived religion etc. I always had Catholic friends and girlfriends and drank in “Catholic” pubs and loved to socialise across the border and never felt I was restricted to socialising in just protestant areas. 
View image on Twitter

I did hear and know “fundamentalists” on both sides – their what I perceived as simplistic hatred puzzled me. People telling me that they were concerned about the spread of Catholics or the insistence that the land was Irish and not British was just odd to me and in fact I used to take the piss out of such odd thinking – to the extent I was attacked by people from both quarters on occasions (one attack came from a friends girlfriend who punched me repeatedly at a party after I had questioned an event in a way that challenged her black and white view and another by a guy who attacked me because I “shouldn’t be at this party…”). I recognised sectarianism and the sectarian nature of my country. I understood that my Catholic friends were much more likely to be unemployed and poor. I understood gerrymandering and censorship. But I never understood bombs in pubs, shootings in churches, construction workers being lined up and shot.  I never understood attacks on journalists like Martin O'Hagan, or those defending people in courts of law, like Rosemary Nelson or Pat Finucane or musicians and artists, like the Miami Showband. People who spoke. People who sang.  People who used words.

I had friends become “terrorists.” Two people I knew – I went to school with and drank with - committed one of the most horrendous crimes of the northern Irish Troubles- the shooting in a bar of a two friends one a Catholic and the other a Protestant. They then went on, in prison, to torture and kill another person involved in their group.

I really have no idea what could drive them to do such a thing. What they thought was so important – what cause – what insult – what slight to their group identity – that drove them to kill two peace loving friends, I really have no answer for. Narcissism is too simplistic. To easy. A wide term applied to a behaviour not fully investigated or analysed. But somewhere there was a disconnect with the humanity of the person on the other side of their automatic weapon.
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Why are all Palestinians not killers? Why weren't all of my Catholic friends killers? Why weren't all of my Loyalist friends’ killers? Why aren't all religious fundamentalists’ killers? Why are all of those people violated by others not terrorists? Why do all of those who have a grievance against someone not end up killing them?

Surely those oppressed but seek solution without vengeance are the strong?

Not all terrorists are someone else's freedom fighter.  Some are just terrorising and creating cycle upon cycle of violence against other sons, daughters, mothers, fathers.

In my opinion, those who seek dialogue, those who seek solutions, consensus - agreement – understanding -but who are confident enough to say, "accept me," are the real warriors - the real freedom fighters.

Those who seek to kill words and thoughts are not representative of any legitimate group or belief they claim to be part of. Those who redact, censor and crush ideas through force and murder ensure their place only in the history books. They have no place in a world that only grows and develops with nurture, love and understanding.

Je Suis Charlie.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

New Years Resolutions...

posted on fb on 15 December...

Ok, beginning my personal New Years resolution list.
1 I will try to do more family things- I will also try to see my family and friends more often and will embrace new friendships.
2 in May, I will not vote for a pro Trident, pro-austerity cuts Party.
3 I will not eat sugar until February 18th (my birthday)
4 I will source my coffee and some other imported goods as ethically as I can.
5 I will try to cut down on diary ... Erm... dairy and what dairy I do use, try to ensure it us from ethical sources.
6 I will stop eating so many carry outs!
7 I will walk more (and explore the Scottish countryside more). This will also help my dog...
8 I will cycle more
9 I will use public transport more
10 I will write more
11 I will try to pursue one other artistic endeavour (drawing? Learn the guitar?)
That's my starter list!

On Sky News' coverage of the George Square bin-lorry accident.

I posted this on my Facebook back on 23 December.

"A youtubed news report of todays terrible events is doing the social media rounds tonight. I'm not going to watch it.
I lived and worked in Dunblane when the dreadful shooting happened there. I could tell you stories about journalists who stayed in a hotel I worked in. One was so vile he ended up being arrested. I was told off by a manager for giving him a mouthful and for delaying his checkout so he would miss his 'plane.
Some of the reporters staying in the hotel, complained about service. It was staffed by people from the wee village- in some cases by relatives of children who were in the school.
They joked in bars at night about where they were and the people they had met -in front of staff traumatized by what had happened-some working only to keep their minds occupied -escaping from the depression and sorrow in their homes and on their streets, for a few hours.
They said they had been in warzones all over the world and had better service. I unsubtly, loudly, reminded them they weren't in a warzone -and even if they were, it wasn't a show just for them. They were in an ordinary town where children had been shot by a madman, and none of the people there had woke up hoping to perform for them. They were there feeding on a tragedy and criticising those it had been meted out on for not being their idea of interviewees or mourners or for not being happy to have lights, camera and war reportage thrust upon them.
I hated watching them arrive in the hotel- some acting like prima donnas, vying for attention and some making outrageous demands on shocked staff. I witnessed microphones and cameras thrust in the faces of villagers trying to keep their lives going in the streets and small shops - ordinary people who were in absolute shock at extraordinary, horrific events they didnt deserve.
I hated them as they left the mourning village, slapping each other on the back, shaking hands over a job well done, saying, "see you at the next one."
Dunblane was commodified, parcelled up by some of these scum, sold and Ching! the cash rolled in.
Some were ok.
If Sky News "reportage" is as bad as they said it has been, the Brutish Press have learned nothing in nearly twenty years.
My thoughts are with those in anguish, sorrow, -personal, familial, shared mental hell tonight."

A friend who helped at the scene, wrote this (not sure of his fb is private, if so, the link wont work!)


I've just been bombarded by really dodgy adverts. The first one to catch my eye is the Provident Loan wee pet doggy. What people don't see in that cute wee money folded dug is its over 300% apr poisonous, flesh ripping fangs. I hate animal cruelty, but burn that origami January debt dog.

The advert for the 99p piece of KFC chicken cadaver is odd. First of all, the ad is definitely advertising the fact that the dead chicken who sacrificed its life, unknowingly, is 99p, but a message appears half way through that says, "Prices May Vary." 'Hey! Get your 99p piece of chicken that may be 99p, or it might not be!"
That's not the oddest thing about this ad. The oddest thing is how happy the couple look in their poverty. They smilingly, knowingly look at each other after they see an advert for the 99p piece of dead, decapitated, delimbed piece of bird that experienced a miserable life just to have it's dead flesh dressed in spiced bread crumbs... I diverge. They see an advert for 99p KFC and smile at each other. They've obviously been sitting there, broke, starving and jobless. Why else would a seemingly cheap piece of dead breaded animal arse make them so happy, and jolt them into such money scrimping action?
They are then seen robbing their we'ans, searching for pennies down the side of the settee, etc- obviously this couple are in dire straights. Although they are smiling throughout the search and robbery for cash, quite a few thoughts MUST be going through their heads. Where will we get our NEXT meal? Do the we'ans need food (their selfishness and relish at the robbery proves their dreadful parenting)? Why won't the social services refer us to another foodbank, perhaps one that allows us more frequent access? And once they have found the £1.98, will KFC randomly increase the price?
Is this advert a subliminal Tory pr exercise? It works on many levels. Iain Duncan Smith will be quoting it as fact in his next paper. "Couples with children, instead of looking for jobs, have enough pennies down their settees to live a life of restaurant luxury. Therefore I am introducing the settee tax on glamorous, smiling, children piggy bank robbing chicken eaters. This will raise the necessary billion billion pounds to give poor bankers their monthly bonus AND the Queens WiFi bill so Andrew can send another denial of being a worse shit than me."