Third World War

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Seventy-five years since the end of the Second World War. We’ve had a few close calls. The Cuban Missile Crisis, for example. Like an old Corporation bus running late the apocalypse rumbles into view. All writers are prophets for hire, waiting for the Virgin Mary to make an appearance before we take the fare. Here we have a Vision of Geronda Ephraim Addressing the Ukrainian Situation and casually flinging in his bombshell, don’t worry about that it’s the beginning of the end.

In Buddhist theology, that isn’t a theology, the perfection of wisdom can take more than one lifetime. The stage before that VIPAŚYANĀ offers a different kind of insight. The baggage of the past is let go and the tyranny of the future holds no fear. Bodhisattvas  and saints go on right on doing what they are already doing. The Buddha gets his begging bowl and begs.

Great men, of course, never beg. They’d rather set the world aflame that admit human weaknesses. There’s a certain beauty in the idea that we are all each other. The ideology of hate and contempt for the other, the so-called beggars, drives us apart. Beggar’s belief drives us to war.

God’s plan is straight, the path to achieving it is not. When we play the all-or-nothing game we must think we can win. Viktor Frankl warned us not to forget Auschwitz or the dropping of the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. That generation is dying off and their antiquated beliefs with them.

In any narrative there’s the smoking gun and ticking clock. In Marxist narratives it was called the contradictions of capitalism that would usher in a new age of the proletariat. We’re still waiting. In the most advance industrial nations, the rich get rich and the poor get poorer. Technology, once thought of a process that would free workers, now speeds up this process.

More than half the world’s wildlife is in decline. Climate change undermines our ability to think rationally.

Whether you believe in God or your body is a simple carbon receptacle that rot and dust will return to dust, enriching the soil and feeding plant life the end is still the same, we are reliant on water. Our ecosystems are falling and failing. Without water we cannot feed ourselves. Every puddle, stream, and river becomes a battleground.

Yet the biggest public share issue that outstrips the value of Apple is based on oil wealth from Saudi Arabia. Fossil fuels are the most valuable bits of paper you can own. Contradictions of capitalism are for now paper talk.

A finger pointed at the moon is not the moon is a Buddhist dharma. A Greek orthodox priest predicting the end of the world is nothing new. Every decade brings its own apocalypse. But how do we nurse our planet back to health and prove him wrong?  Write your answers in the wind or it will be written on the bodies of your children.    

Antonio Inurbe (2019) The Librarian of Auschwitz (based on the true story of Dita Kraus) translated by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites.

Reading is my religion. This book is billed as a true story, marked down as a genre somewhere between The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice. The latter was a life-affirming, marvellous book, beautifully written with a clear moral message. The former – I only read the first fifty pages. I find myself in the same misgivings with The Librarian of Auschwitz as I did with The Tattooist

Here are a few examples.

A black shadow, darker than all the rest is walking along the Lagerstrasse…Dr Mengele…Mengele studies her at length. /‘I never forget a face.’/His words carry a deathly stillness. If Death were to speak, it would do so with precisely this icy cadence.   

If I was marking this I’d give it a B2. Not bad. No face ever forgotten. No cliché left unused in the cliché box.

What about a warning sign for novice writers? *Shoehorning something you really want your reader to know –  I wonder where the key to the car is that’s under the plant-pot variety?

*Dita rushes off to reassure her mother, who will have already found out about Block 31 inspection. As she runs down the Lagerstrasse she comes across her friend Margit.

“Ditnka, I hear you had in inspection in Thirty-One?”

‘That disgusting Priest!’

“Did they find anything? Did they detain anyone?”

“Absolutely nothing; there’s nothing for them to find there.’ Dita winked. ‘Mengele was there, too.”

“Dr Mengele? He’s a madman. He experimented with injections of blue ink into the pupils of thirty-six children in an attempt to produce blue-eyed people. It was horrible Ditnka. Some died of infections and others were left blind. You were lucky to escape his notice.”

In other words, you were lucky to find the car key that was under the plant pot. B2 or not B2 that is the question?

How does the author plan to tell the reader about lousy bunks and people that just won’t share?

“*It’s cold, and your parents are outside, Dita. Won’t they catch pneumonia?”

“My mother prefers not to be inside with her bunkmates, who has a lot of horrible boils…although she’s no worse than my bunkmate!”

“But you’re lucky— you both sleep on top bunks. We’re spared among the lowest bunks,” said Magrit.

“You must really feel the damp seeping up from the ground.”

“Oh Ditnka, Ditnka,”

Oh, reader, oh reader, I will not go on. Perhaps you will. I feel no sense of place. This could be Butlins, not Auschwitz. Something lost in translation? Read on.  

Celtic 1—2 Rangers

we don’t need more stats, we watched the game.

I’d a gut feeling Celtic would lose today and a gut feeling they’ll lose the Championship. Hope I’m wrong, of course. Last year we were behind Rangers and went on to win it comfortably. I remember being 13 points behind Hearts a few years ago. No need to go overboard and get bogged down in hype and hysteria. Rangers not if, when, they win their game in hand, will be a point ahead in the league.

In terms of performance this was on par with the League Cup final. Lennon went with his strongest eleven. Johnson in for Ntcham showed attacking intent. All over the pitch Celtic had pace. That was the theory.

In reality, Rangers outmuscled us. You can’t blame Fraser Forster for any of the two goals. Scott Brown was the only Celtic player that turned up. Jeremie Frimpong decent enough without doing anything. Most anonymous player, James Forrest. I’d call him dreadful, but he didn’t have enough touches to be dreadful. Mikey Johnson is a truly gifted player, but not today. Starting him was a gamble that didn’t work. Odsonne Edouard talent wasn’t on show, no better than Lewis Morgan. Ryan Christie missed another penalty. I knew he was going to miss. Decent height for the keeper, but great save. That would have put us 1—0 up. It didn’t. We were chasing the game, after Ryan Kent’s superb strike.

Rangers second goal, Kristopher Ajer, six-foot-six or six-foot-seven, outmuscled and outjumped at the back post by Katic at the back post. Centre-halves especially in Scottish football need to be able to win their headers. This is something Ajer seems incapable of.  

Christopher Jullien won us a penalty and had two headers cleared off the line and was unlucky not to score. But he kept giving away fouls by knocking over Morelos. He’s prone to that basic error of pushing over the opposition centre-forward and helping the opposition team up the park. His passing is also erratic. The Rangers outball always had us scrambling backwards towards our own goal. Morelos didn’t score, but he got the better of our centre-half pairing.

Boli Bolingoli wasn’t the worst, wasn’t the best, and was distinctly below average, which just about sums him up.

Calum McGregor scored a deflected goal off Edouard’s hand and got us back into the game coming up to half time. Terrific player, but not today. Not in the last match at Hampden or Ibrox.

Nine out of ten Celtic players—the exception being Scott Brown—lost their person battle with the opposition players. At home, remember, where we should win games.     

Neil Lennon was fond of reminding commentators that Celtic bossed the last game at Ibrox. Ranger bossed the game today and the game at Hampden. If they boss any more Old Firm games Lennon won’t be the boss for much longer. He’s wise enough to know that himself. We can win at Ibrox, but let’s put talk of winning the Europa Cup on hold. The team that Lennon built isn’t good enough even for Scottish consumption.

Peter (Barra) McGachy (1956-2019)

the bold barra

Peter (Barra) McGachy died on Friday 13th December. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere. Barra was a bit of a bard, one of life’s storytellers. He would be saying, ‘C’mon, Friday the 13th for fuck sake’. He’d one of those gritty voices that came from a mineshaft below his feet and echoed up through his body. His throaty laugh was a bit like that, an invitation to stop fucking about, get a drink and enjoy your life. And his moustache, most people remember his moustache. Even when he shaved it off, it was six months before I noticed. It was like the queen with her corgi dogs, you just expected it to be there. His moustache was a corgi dog, tail wagging, and a tale there somewhere.

But he wouldn’t thank you for mentioning him in the same breath as the queen. At his funeral I was surprised to hear he was a socialist. Look around for the cheapest, most dilapidated van outside Dunswin Court, burst tyres, beer mat for tax disc – that’s anarchy for you.

Barra worked in the yards, a welder. I didn’t know that. Didn’t know about his wife and family. Just a guy I knew from the buroo club and fitba, thirty years ago, when gravel parks were the AstroTurf of our day. Barra loved fitba. Loved Celtic. Used to slide into the booth beside me in Mountie and watch the games on the big screen. Play pool with him in the Drop Inn. Saw him in the snooker hall. He did the commentary on the glory years. We’re old enough to remember the other mob that bought nine titles on tic. And even the time before that the Lisbon Lions. Nine flags flying over Paradise.

I’m not going to start greeting or anything like that. We weren’t great pals. I knew where he came from Belmont Street in Whitecrook and the Bisley. Little Ireland. Men worked in the yards, the Proddies got all the best jobs and divvied up the other shite and allowed the Catholics to toil in the dirtiest, lowest paid work. No surrender comes in many forms. Good to hear Barra was a shop steward and employed his gift of the gab.

When Barra was born in 1956, Ferenc Puskás threatened to flee Hungary during a visit to Scotland by the national team, seek asylum, and play for Celtic. All along the Clyde the yards were shut down by strikes over guaranteed pay. We all know the story of shipyard owners who had made their millions claiming they would be forced out of business unless caulkers, burners and platers were reasonable. A familiar ring we here every day now.

Billy Connolly talks about the funny men in the yards. That’s Barra. I’m sure he’d have told the Parkhead hierarchy he could speak Hungarian in the same way he convinced me he could play in goals despite being legless.  If he’d negotiated for the welders he’d have been reasonably unreasonable.  A zip in his trousers at the back, as he explained, for emergency purposes only. Christmas lights on his hat so he could go to the gaffer and, honestly, tell him, he was feeling a bit light-headed. Barra had a sense of the absurd and we all need that to leaven our everyday work and worries.

I had to laugh at one of the family photos. That could have been my family, or most of the families I knew. Dad standing at the back as Irish looking as a potato. Mum in the middle of the couch, broad presence, centre of the family –I’m not even sure if it’s his family. There should be a wee sister there but it’s all young boys.  Barra grinning at the front, smoothed down hair, big jug ears, tan coloured, V-neck school jumper, shirt and dark tie. Gallus, ready to leap up and get on with some mischief. He didn’t have a moustache then, but did have nudie books, he was only about ten. Photos cost money, but you see consumerism creeping into view. An Electrolux hoover and that looks like a record player. A family on the up and up.  

How quickly we become frail and fall. Barra, father and grandfather, was buried by those who loved him. It was good to see such a turn-out at the crematorium. I’ve been up that way a few times already this year. And I’m sure if I hang about long enough it will be my turn too. I think I can hear Barra’s laughter.     

Fergal Keane (2005) All of these people

I know this man. He is one of us. All of these people are people I know. Good and bad, flawed humans. Fergal Keane is much the same age as me. His father was a well-known actor and his mother a school teacher. Ireland was a generation behind us when he was born, in a different times zone, gripped by a dangerous nostalgia of what could have been, a different kind of Ireland, one that was ruled by priests and hypocrisy. Fergal’s father was an alcoholic, the disease of the Irish and handed down from father to son. His mother a miracle worker as his father follows his star from stage to stage from Southern Ireland to London and back again just in time to put the kettle on for the Troubles and the Celtic economic miracle.

Fergal dreamed of Africa and being the kind of hero that changes the world as we all do. He dreamed of writing and with his mum and dad’s connections got started in the reporting business and on the right track for the writing business in general. His Uncle John B Keane was holding forth about writing and writers as they walked. And here is the way it is, ‘If I couldn’t write,’ he said, ‘I’d go stone fucking mad.’

There’s no guarantee of course you won’t go stone fucking mad even if you can write. Fergal’s dad’s pals, politicians, playwrights and poets such as Brendan Behan and Fran O’Brien were professional drinkers and dreamers. His father a greatly loved story teller of some renown, who brought the written word alive, but the drink pulled him under, pulled them under. Fergal is honest enough to declare he too fought on that front, but the war never finished, a waiting game, until the next skirmish.

He makes the leaps from boy to man from Cork to Limerick junior reporter  on the Leader – 17th September 1979— to reporting on Northern Ireland and the Troubles to world stage and lead report for the BBC telling the word about  South Africa before and after Mandela’s release, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in Serbia and Syria. His dreams had become reality with the added glitter of a loving wife and child to give him ballast.

Look into the Nietzchean pit long enough and the pit will look back at you. Sectarian violence in Ireland, in South Africa, in Serbia and in Rwanda had a common feature. Hatred of others in their midst no different from the Nazi ideology of hatred of the Jews. The dehumanising effect of ideology no different from which we’re spoon fed today when people cheers when ships carrying immigrants sink in the Mediterranean or border guards beat men to death, or guards separate children from their mothers and put them in cages as they do in Trump’s America.

In Rwanda Keane saw men and women running with children in their arms, pleading to be let into the reporter’s cars to escape their attackers, only to be hacked to death in front of them. Keane admits he’s not a brave man. The car did not stop. He did not step out, his white face a passport to be treated differently, he wanted to live. He left the others behind. The reporter’s job is to report, not intervene, as a mantra.

How do you find peace within yourself after what you have seen, lived through? That’s a question that runs through this book. A question we all should ask ourselves. Honesty allows Keane to admit—as  I would too—the Nazi guard, that could have been me. Caught up in forces and ideologies that perpetuate hate and give one a choice of either for them or against them, most folk, myself included, take the easy by-line and easy life.  From the Milgram Shock Experiment to the Stanford Prison Experiments authority figures telling us what to do frees us from the restraint of morality, unleashes the evil within us.

Initially, Keane naively asks why the Tutus never ran from the Hutus when the genocide began. The answer was staring him in the face. Murderers, rapists and child killers weren’t some foreign body but people’s neighbours and friends, people that went to the same places you went to, that knew the back roads and side roads you would take and where there waiting. And when places of sanctuary like a Catholic church was filled with those without hope, they rounded themselves up, encircled on all sides.

One of the stupidest things I’ve read, comes from the mouth of a heroic character in The Librarian of Auschwitz in which he declares the Jews had no army, or the Germans wouldn’t have defeated them. Sectarian and ethnic violence is premised on that argument. Trump supporters carrying make America great again. Franco’s fascist supporters carrying placards calling to make Spain great again.  Le Pen’s right-wing army calling for the deportation of immigrants to make France great again. Or Farage’s cull on the immigrants, with the pictorial smiling face of Boris Johnson with a Union Jack, send them back motif behind him.

Hatred has many flags and many faces, a cancerous growth Keane recognises runs through us. He’s paid the price with his reporting life. And like pastor Martin Niemöller he witnessed the politics of hate from Cork to the whole of our creation which brings nothing but corpses,

  First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Storyville, Facing Franco’s Crimes, The Silence of Others, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, Directors and Producers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bynq/storyville-facing-francos-crimes-the-silence-of-others

What is justice?

Here’s a narrative of a statue of Christ in Spain, Italy, Germany, England or sunny California in which the hands get lopped off, a bomb, a bullet or vandalism.   St Teresa of Avila, who founded an order of Carmelites nuns in her native Spain, declared Christ has no hands but ours. That was the message.

Here’s another story. Sculptures by Francesco Cedenilla, human figure set high in the mountains of El Torno in Extremadura to represent the hundreds of thousands ‘disappeared’ under the Franco regime, statues shot up by right-wing supporters of neo-fascism. Cedenilla declared that the bullet holes completed his work.

History is written by the victors.

General Franco army and militias with the support of fellow fascist dictators Hitler and Mussolini seized control of Spain during the Civil War 1936-1939. 500 000 or more Spanish citizens fled across the border, mainly into France. The war didn’t end in Spain nor did it end in 1939, Franco unlike his fellow fascist dictators did not give up power, but held onto it until his death in 1975. Under his regime 187 concentration camps were still open for business and hundreds of thousands tortured and disappeared. Tens of thousands babies stolen from their mothers at birth and given up for adoption without consent.  

The Pact of Forgetting was an attempt to put the past behind them and move on. It was ratified in the Spanish Parliament in 1977 and a general amnesty entailed. We see similar and more recent cases in, for example, South Africa, Northern Ireland and Rwanda.

Robert Harris’s Fatherland plays with this narrative. Hitler, like Franco has won the war and the Nazi leader is going to meet the American President John F Kennedy. This may seem farfetched but Franco, of course, did meet with Nixon, the Pope and most other right-wing world leaders. But in this narrative a lowly officer in the Kripo, the German criminal police, investigates the killing of Nazi officials who took part in the Wannsee Conference in 1942.  That was where the Final Solution was ratified. Hitler did not attend. Six million Jews and millions of other nationalities were killed. The world knows nothing of this and by bumping off those that attended the conference and cleaning up the concentration camps Hitler’s crimes can be righted by the disappearance of the witnesses to history.  

Franco’s victims had no voice and certainly no Nuremberg show trial. Maria Martin was a child during the Civil War. One of seven living in a little village in Castalia La Mancha. Her mother was taken from the fields, her head shaven and murdered by locals that accused her of being a ‘red’, ‘disappeared’, her body found naked. They killed 27 men and three women, including her mother. She recalled how afterwards older children threw stones at her. Later when she started leaving flowers at the side of the road where her mother’s nude body was found, villagers made signals that they’d slit her throat too. Official letters were returned telling her she’d be next if she didn’t stop pestering them with request to return her mum’s body for a proper funeral so she could be laid to rest.  

Or the case of ‘Chato’, whose torturer, ‘Billy the Kid,’ lived a few streets from him. Chato tells us how his friend was shot in the head by the police in 1968. He was taken to prison and some days beatings took place for 13 hours, his legs, his genitals, his feet. ‘Billy the Kid’ retired on a state pension to run marathons in Spain and New York.

Carlos Slepoy (now deceased) over a six year period, documents how victims attempts to bring those that had tortured them, stole their babies or killed their father and mothers were stymied by the Spanish state at the highest levels. How elderly victims had to take out an international lawsuit and take their case to Argentina to be heard. The Silence of Others, with some success, dares to challenge the status quo using the case of the Chilean dictator, General Pinochet, as a precedent.  For justice to prevail crimes against humanity must be heard. Bashar al-Assad, and other world leaders should be worried should such a legal precedent become universal. There’s a certain irony in Argentina were a military junta ruled for so many years is selling itself as the new Nuremberg. Truth is no stranger to justice unless, like St Teresa’s statue of Christ the Redeemer, our mouth stays shut, our voice goes unheard.        

gazingstock

I shared a post on Facebook (Fakebook) from Harriet Goodale which just about sums up how I feel.

I can’t wait to shut up about what an absolute fucking abomination the Tory party is. If you’re still voting conservative, now fully aware of the consequences, I concede defeat. Congratulations, you’re a prize cunt. Four million destitute children with empty bellies salute you. Have fun remortgaging your house when your appendix bursts. I hope they put us all in labour camps so I can find you in the gruel queue and stamp on your foot.

Reading about Boris Johnson’s victory is depressing, the fake humility and the promises, like any new football manager to turn things around. He’s a winner and we’ll be winners too. Trust him.

Johnson has got that bit of leeway now, results might not go his way initially, but it’s a new project. New Conservatism with big spending plans. When Brexit is dealt with he’ll get back to those other things he plans to fix. It’s a matter of faith.

Perhaps the most depressing thing I read was an interview with a homeless man living on the steets. He said he wasn’t registered to vote, but if he did, he’d have voted Tory. If I’d have put a £1 in his cap I’d have taken it back and taken another fiver or whatever he’d collected. I’ve faith in that’s what the Tories do. Take from the poor to give to the rich.

When things start going wrong, as they will very quickly, are indeed happening at this very moment, when the grace period of Johnson’s government is over and they revert to type, then we know what type they are.

Johnson is wooden and hollow, and his lies are Pinocchio in disguise. Does anybody really believe, for example,  that when Britain are locked out of the block of the richest trading nations, the monopoly on healthcare we call the National Health Service won’t be on the table quicker than you can say wooden nose?

Noam Chomsky tells us the standard technique of privatisation, defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry. You hand our NHS over to private capital. You hand the United Kingdom over to Boris Johnson and his ilk. He talks about Brexit. How he’ll pull it out of the bag, ready cooked. Results might go against him, but he’s one of us. He’s doing it for us.

The underfunded NHS is low hanging fruit. Perfect for rich fund managers to pick up as a bargain. The infrastructure is already in place. Borrow money cheap and buy. Economic rent can be paid as dividends to the already rich and increased every year.  Look for example at the £400 million profit to Richard Branson for not running Virgin trains very well. Or any of the privatised water companies, not investing in infrastructure but paying huge dividends to their already wealthy shareholders. Not only is privatisation costly it doesn’t work any more effectively than publicly funded corporations.

Deregulation, of course, means no regulation. If we look for example at Ted Genoways The Chain: Farm, Factory and the Fate of Our Food we see what it means is animals, including the human animal, are ever moveable replacement parts where profit is the only thing that counts. Land is degraded and runoff shit poisons rivers and streams. There’s a metaphor for the relationship between capital and labour.

External costs, land deregulation, water and air pollution are prices paid by the majority. Our problem isn’t just chlorinated chicken and degraded beef that will inevitably follow cheaper food, but fishing and farming in Britain being unable to compete and also locked out of EEC food markets. Our ongoing trading deficit with other nations becomes even wider.  The biggest external cost of all is global warming. The Third World War against climate change has begun and we are feeding that fire.   

Deregulation, of course, also gave us the 2008 banking crisis. The weapons of mass destruction were bonds, ostensibly backed by governments. Government money bailed out bankers, taxpayers money made the rich richer. But it also, ironically, provided an alibi for the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Cameron and Osborne to cut back on public spending. The same promise of public spending that Johnson promises to put on hold and spend big.     

We live in an apartheid state, but it’s not the colour of our skin that matters (although if you’re classified as non-white it might not feel that way) it’s class. If you’re working class you know what to expect. If you’re comfortable, you can look away and smirk at Boris’s foibles. We lost the election, but more importantly we’ve lost the propaganda war.   Harriet Goodale gets it pretty much right. That’s what I call righteous anger.