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Beware, those that listen not!

Posted by Steve on November 19, 2016
Posted in Current Affairs 

In January 2013, David Cameron announced that a referendum would be held that would give the people a simple vote to either leave the EU or stay within it. On June 23rd 2016, the public surprisingly voted in favour of leaving the EU, having achieved a majority of 51.89% after a divisive campaign that concluded with the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron quit politics completely soon after with his reputation in tatters. Straight into the lucrative private sector – poor him and his cohort, Osborne.

Whether you agree that the question should ever have been posed at all, that only a simple majority was enough, or that the alternative should have been set out (rather than being a simple blank canvas) – these are the facts. Parliament agreed to pose the question, agreed the mechanics and agreed on the question itself. They had their say. They thought they’d win. They gambled. They lost.

This blog doesn’t cover whether we should or should not leave or what any damage could be but is concerned with the consequence of ignoring the voice of the majority of people within the UK and stopping the submission of Article 50, the mechanism to leave the EU, by any of the nefarious means currently in circulation – circulated by the political and business elite for whom staying serves their own interest or opinion.

The recent US election returned a candidate that mirrors the Brexit result – the surprise and the reasoning. People voted for change. They’re fed up with the elite and the political groups who swirl around Westminster and Washington churning out more and more of the same – apparently all concerned with self-interest. It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump being returned as President Elect in any other time, other than when the majority of people have had enough. The Democrat candidate was a perfect example of “more of the same”, hints of corruption and the continuation of powerful family dynasties. Another Clinton, another Bush, another Obama (to come in 2020). The public said “no” and the leader of the free world is now someone perfectly capable of jeopardising world peace. If you think differently, you’re not informed. They wanted change that badly.

For Brexit, the “in” campaign had two Oxford graduates that have never had a job or money problems, telling the people what was good for them, threatening them with tax rises and war – all with a sense of arrogance that they couldn’t lose. They did. They can now take up private work to advise firms how best to relocate to Frankfurt and Paris from London. They won’t go hungry.

The public had seen enough. Even the “out” campaign had posh elitists behaving badly, lying, exaggerating and playing on fears. Having won, they turned on themselves and left a Prime Minister in charge that appeared to want “in” but had a low enough profile to be suspected of keeping quiet so that she could hoover up the big job. The public don’t vote for a Prime Minister in General Elections, but for their local MP. A majority of MPs allows the naming of a PM – that’s how it works. However, given the situation, she lacks credibility and has walked through Number 10’s back door. To be a leader in a Brexit country, she really should win an election, a mandate.

So, now we face an uncertain future, which is very damaging in many ways – but the public DID vote for this. The PM says she will not reveal details of the negotiation in public or the tactics for that plan – and on this, she’s absolutely right to say that. It’s absurd to reveal your hand towards your opponent if you want the right result. Would you negotiate for a second-hand car by saying, “I’ll offer you £5,000 but am prepared to go up to £6,000.” No. Did Churchill stand up in Parliament and tell everyone that he’d launch an attack to act as a diversion whilst preparing the real attack elsewhere? Of course not.

Fast forward your imaginations 300 years and consider a scenario. Imagine that your 300 year forward relative read that large groups of people struggling with globalisation voted to remove itself from the European Union that was beset by administrative red tape and soft corruption. The European Union’s early years involved bundling much poorer states into a large union that naturally lowered standards of the participants’ wealthier states, as the richer states had to contribute towards their new brothers. The people didn’t like that. You continue reading and see that the elitist rulers of that state, known at the time as the United Kingdom, reversed the democratic will of the people with political means that resulted in civil disorder and the eventual split of that union into a number of states that are now part of the United States of Europe. You would know them as Londonia, South England, North England, Scotland, Wales and North East Ireland. All but Londonia are the economical equivalent to Romania and Lithuania. Does it sound absurd? Does it sound familiar? The people rising up to an elite apparently consumed with self-interest?

History does show that the will of the people cannot be ignored and that when it is, it is incredibly destabilising and the cause of war and suffering. Politicians are not listening to the people that elected them. I hear politicians saying that they should have their say on Brexit – but they did – on June 23rd 2016 along with everyone else. They sit in their ivory towers and think that they know better, that their vote somehow means more. It doesn’t. History shows people like this hanging from beams or separated from their heads. Together we’re stronger – division doesn’t work. It allows bad people to rise up and take power. Beware France. Beware USA. Give it a bit of time and beware UK.



Posted by Steve on December 12, 2015
Posted in Current Affairs 

So, I walked the dog about 10 o’clock in the evening, as I do everyday and I got to thinking… I’m only wearing a hoodie and a t-shirt… and it’s a couple of weeks before Christmas. Why am I not freezing cold? The other day, I got to work and felt a bit sweaty (7:30am, this is) – and I only had on a thin rain coat and a shirt. I could easily have skipped the coat layer – in December, in London, which is not too dissimilar a latitude to Moscow. Have I relocated to northern Spain without noticing?

The world community is meeting in Paris to talk about cutting this and doing that and fiddling about a bit. They’ll decide it’s been a success and pat each other on the head and everyone will be spared global warming and all that this (apparently) entails. The world will rejoice. Long haired folk will unchain themselves from the trees that they’ve been hugging and release giant puff clouds from strange cigarettes into the warm night air.

If you look though, you’ll see industry will continue to pump out all the stuff that’s bad into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities as the world population gets ever more out of control and developing nations burn stuff to make energy – we did, why shouldn’t they? Strangely, I will still feel compelled and shamed enough to wake up in a cold sweat and sprint down to the front room at 3am to extinguish that evil red standby light from consuming a friction burn’s worth of energy. After all, I do want to save the planet. Nations will pay fines and deal in carbon emission certificates and argue that proportionate to their population, they’ve decreased usage, etc. etc. They’ll probably all fly somewhere else and have another conference. How nice. Perhaps Australia next time?

It’s worth remembering too, that nature heats up the planet and releases carbon dioxide all by itself anyway – which ultimately ends up causing an ice age (which freezes carbon dioxide in the soil and under the ocean) – it IS a natural cycle. It has happened before. We are speeding it up, no doubt but the Earth has been pretty inhospitable for a vast number of its 4.543 billion years. We seem to think it’s an unspoilt paradise that we’re all ruining with our standby lights and diesel cars but it’s a red hot molten lump of iron with a rocky crust spinning around a giant ball of hot plasma (that’s the Sun) at 1,000 mph in a freezing cold and mostly empty void (that’s space). The universe is not cuddly.

The speed of change is really quite dramatic. You can see it in many practical ways. I’m 44 at time of writing but I remember winters were very cold and there was always snow – often big piles of the stuff. I remember summers that were almost always full of hot sun. If you went on a UK holiday, it was very bad luck to get rained on. Not any longer, as I can testify after visiting the lovely Cornwall in the summer. The good weather used to peak during school holidays, particularly August. 3.8 billion years ago, a meteorite had the audacity to land on our planet and cause a lot of mess. Fortunately, we didn’t have a conference and clean it up. It had bought change with it – life. The World will go through many iterations on its journey. I’m not saying we should be reckless with the environment, not at all – I’m saying that change is inevitable and global warming and ice ages do and have happened before. All the Canute kings of the COP21 Conference can say what they want but those waves are going to come in.

Incredibly, my rose bush still has some bloom in it. No one appears to have told it that it is December. These days, I find that the weather is very similar all year around. It’s often “cloudy with a chance of rain and some sunny intervals”. We rarely see snow these days and the train companies are very grateful. We seem to have a hot period early June to mid July and then it’s back to the new normal. The summer and winter seem to be about 15 degrees Celsius apart with few other differences. When it rains, it rains a lot and this is why we see all these awful floods in the north of England currently – events I don’t remember from childhood. Cold air hitting hot air = rain.

Forget conferences, if you want the old UK climate, move to Iceland. I’d recommend a property on an elevation for future proofing…  In England, particularly the south, I’d recommend putting together a vineyard!


Posted by Steve on September 15, 2015
Posted in Current Affairs 

It doesn’t matter which political ideology you belong to but for democracy to function correctly, you need to have a counterbalance. The people must be presented with at least two flavours in order to encourage debate and advancement. Innovation is the cornerstone of human essence, it’s why we’re not sitting in a tree, eating scraps of raw meat and thinking, “well, I’m alright, I’m not going down there.” Despotic regimes come from single entity governments/movements because they are free to do what they want (any old time … sorry, couldn’t resist that one).

The stunning emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Her Majesty’s opposition is of great concern. He is clearly unelectable and, although he sets pulses racing now, with people eager for change, as time moves on and his absurd ideas come to the surface, the Government will become complacent with the lack of resistance. This is dangerous as they need to be pushed by legitimate opposition. Corbyn may be popular with small sections of people that have infiltrated the Labour party but this is far from representative of the masses. Now there will be a feeding frenzy from those people, starved of attention for so long. With an often apathetic public (in regards to politics), that’s actually quite scary.

It is easy to see that a Labour party moving to the right and into the centre ground is electable. It happened. It is also easy to see that a Conservative party moving to the left and into the centre ground is also electable. It happened. It was plain that a Labour party moving slightly to the left with Ed Miliband was not electable – even against a fairly unpopular Conservative party that was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats! Therefore, it doesn’t require a hugely logical mind to see that a Labour party (if that’s what it still is) moving way off to the left is about as unelectable as a fascist far right party. In fact, you saw that UKIP got a very good percentage of votes when it leaned into the left and appealed to traditional Labour and Conservative supporters. The centre wins – it’s a bell shaped curve – there’s too much diversity in the UK to be anything else, despite social engineering efforts. Unlike some parties, the “Labour party” cannot now even infer that it’s anything other than extreme. Extreme never wins.

The short term issue will be the use of the limited power that this movement of people has gained. Until such time that it is properly discredited, it will be able to exert some influence, using Labour politicians that would otherwise not be involved, to encourage extreme militant socialist activities, such as strikes and the like. The impact of this will be to cause financial disruption and that will only increase the strain on the Treasury, which will in turn only increase the burden of austerity. I would hope that the people of the centre left will stand up and be counted, faced with this threat, else they will be complicit in bringing about further trouble and strife to the country that has enough to cope with already. Given the performance in the General Election and the subsequent in-fighting, I suspect they don’t have the backbone for it.

Scotland – just say no

Posted by Steve on September 11, 2014
Posted in Current Affairs 

We stand seven days from the referendum: should Scotland be an independent country? Simply speaking, no. Of course not, it’s lunacy.

Just stating the obvious, the larger the country, the more power it has. That’s in all different ways. Big obvious ways like the armed forces and economic spending power in the world spring to mind as really obvious ones.

The very question has spawned a poison that was not needed in these difficult geo-political times. The English people are wondering why Scotland will get more power in the event of a “no” and they will not get any new power in their own country. Scottish politicians can vote on legislation in England but not vice versa – the politicians are panicking and creating new problems. The Welsh will want more power, the Northern Irish will be asking questions.

Scotland has a smaller population than Greater London – in fact, less than half – yet it feels it should have a bigger influence in the whole of the UK. As a Londoner, perhaps we should have London declare independence? Perhaps my street should go it alone too? I think I could improve everyone’s life in my street. Honest. Let’s do it. My street can be a new state in the USA, I think. We’ll get the dollar, the Fed will listen to us when we want economic things changed. They’ll go for that, I’ll talk to them. Yes… that’s what we’ll do… we’ll make it up as we go along. What’s the SNP’s marketing department’s phone number? Tell them someone else escaped from the asylum.

What’s very odd is so many people wanting to come out of one union and then join another – if they are allowed (big IF). The EU is fundamentally broken and requires reform – why on earth would you want to join that anyway? If they think they have no influence now, wait until they’re in the EU properly. Wait until they have to ship all Salmond’s oil revenues down to Spain and Greek farmers. Perhaps you’ll get some olives in return.

Alex Salmond is a con man. He’s fraudulent, making things up to win support, ignoring important facts, yet because he’s a politician, it’s okay. What if he said he’d give every Scot £1m if they vote “yes” – where’s the accountability for acting with integrity in something so important?

Citing the oil revenues (which are not necessarily just automatically 100% part of Scotland’s booty): these revenues will be gone in thirty or forty years at most (they’re declining now) – what then? If the oil is given up as fully Scottish, perhaps the UK should recover some of the infrastructure investment, take some rail tracks away, ports, buildings, roads – i.e, recover our spending if we’re going to play “that’s my football” games – or is that getting silly?

Businesses will up sticks and leave Scotland. They’ve said it. Listen to them. As a foreign country, there could be all sorts of tariffs imposed on trade. Why not? It’s a FOREIGN country after a “yes” – it’s not electing this person or that person and talking about it and perhaps changing minds – it’s a FOREIGN country. As FOREIGN as Angola. What absolutely undeniably follows is an increase in unemployment, a rise in prices, reduced pensions, no home currency and therefore no ability to use economic tools to intervene with the new economy. Walk away from the UK, walk away from the central bank. Where will the Scottish government get its badly needed loans? Interest rates on loans will by punitive. Why would the UK want a currency union with a very small foreign country that will have a bad credit rating? Risk of default will be high, so bad credit rating. Scotland would have NO negotiating power. None. Nothing. Salmond has cooked up a recession and is peddling it to the people as if it was a cup cake in a car boot sale.

Assuming no border? Salmond can’t. There’s two sides to a border. It’s not an idle threat to put up a border – this is real. Particularly when the independent Scottish nation would be run by a reckless man. Scotland will be a FOREIGN country (I’ll keep saying it). The wannabee immigrants will be getting ready to go from Calais to Glasgow, to access the rest of the UK. We have to stop them. There would be border controls and restricted movement. Visas. This is REAL. Salmond wants the bits only he wants. Why does he think he’ll get it? Post “yes” vote, he thinks he has negotiating power – why would he? He would be a FOREIGN national.

Scotland does not like being governed by parties they did not vote for. Who does? Not a single person in this country voted for a Tory/Lib Dem coalition but there it is. Tell you what, let’s all run off then because you don’t like the result of the democratic process. Scotland has historically had a significant impact in returning Labour governments in the past, where the parliament would have been made up differently without their votes. When that goes (partially) the other way, Salmond’s toys come out of the pram. Let’s remember the numbers here – Scotland’s population is less than 10% of the population of the UK. It’s less than half the population of Greater London. Salmond: get 64 million beans, take out 5.3m beans and look at the size differences, then think and act with some integrity and thought for the 5.3 million people, not for yourself and your vision of being King of Scotland.

As Scotland descends into a chaos, the rest of the UK will have a blip with a load of cost to bear and the map will look strange because Scotland’s land mass looks more significant than the population numbers bear out. Salmond will hear a lot “no” answers in his negotiations with the UK as he has no leverage at all – nothing to bring to the table. But … it will be too late. The rest of the UK will have issues to solve, like borders, moving nuclear weapons, but it will settle, albeit weaker on the world stage. Scotland will settle into its role of an anonymous country – why would a nation of 5.3 million people be anything more? Congratulations.

The day itself will be important. Salmond’s nationalist and “patriotic” fervour will curry favour with people if the sun is shining and people think, “yes, okay, let’s go for it. I feel good!” The world doesn’t work in this way – the facts and the cold light of day will deliver a different outcome.

Salmond is picking and choosing bits of fantasy and confusing himself with Braveheart but he’s really Walter Mitty and people are apparently buying it. It’s easy to sell a patriotic vision. It doesn’t help that people don’t like David Cameron. It’s not Cameron Vs Salmond or Salmond Vs the Tories. It’s Sense Vs Lunacy. Salmond has a sniff of power in his fantasy vision and he’s going to lead the Scottish population into the dark ages and a place of no return before the “yes” people realise what he’s done – he’s a smiling second hand car salesman on a power trip. By then, it will be too late – it’s not another “election” in five years to try again, it’s done, over, finished. Scotland will be just another Finland (same population – Finland slightly bigger). No offence to Finland – just talking about size…!

We should ALL be proud to be members of the union. Nothing is ever perfect but it’s not broken. Try and fix it though and you break it for good. This is very real. Wake up. Vote “no”.

Big Society? Soft society…

Posted by Steve on August 29, 2014
Posted in Current Affairs 

The scandal in Rotherham beggars belief. It makes you question what is going on under the surface.

An enormous number of abuse cases, police failings, social care failings and an absurd fear of being labelled racist. Reading it renders me numb because it is unbelievable that this can happen and happen here, in the UK. On top of the BBC turning a blind eye to the Jimmy Saville events, Cyrille Smith and various other scandals, it makes you think the UK is a nation of paedophiles being policed by ineffective incompetents. It’s like watching a TV show and we await the heroes to sort it out. They’re not coming, are they? They’re too busy thinking about themselves. It doesn’t seem real.

Dealing with racism first. The authorities were apparently turning a blind eye to abuse in case they were deemed racist because the perpetrators were of a certain ethnic origin. The danger with racism is always that it becomes such a taboo subject that it swings too far across the line and becomes reverse racism. There’s no excuse for racism but there’s also no excuse for running from things in case it looks racist. That’s a lack of support from superiors who are also scared of being branded. It must stop. I know of real life examples of people suspended from jobs because of absurd allegations of racism. That’s unacceptable as much as being racist. There’s no trust.

The race of the perpetrators has nothing to do with the appalling events. The media were very quick to label the instigators as of Pakistani origin. I cannot see how that is relevant and I can only see it as an attempt to demonise that ethnicity. Given the sensitivity of the situation around Muslim people and the events in the Middle East, it’s particularly unwelcome. The people involved should be hunted down and punished severely – whatever their colour or origin. Any people found to have turned a blind eye should also be punished as far as possible. I do, however, wonder if turning a blind eye is a criminal offence and not just incompetency. At the very least – and it’s not nearly enough – they should be sacked and not allowed to work in a position of trust ever again. Waiting for people to resign is stunning – there should be no choice. They should be publically named and publically shamed.

Rotherham is in the spotlight. It’s unlikely to be an isolated case. How long do we have to live in a soft society? Where’s the promised Big Society? Too much focus on human rights and sensitivity. Meanwhile, vulnerable people suffer.

Over simplifying, the fear of being labelled racist appears to be worse than allowing child abuse to happen. The world has gone mad.


The growing shadow

Posted by Steve on July 5, 2014
Posted in Current Affairs  | Tagged With: , , ,

A large area of the Middle East has been declared a Caliphate – a Muslim state – and the leaders of this organisation allegedly have plans to extend this into other areas, including countries where the Muslim faith is in the minority. The leader has called for non-military assistance in the formation of this “state” – which you can read about here.

It sounds like a work of fiction, a throwback to more ancient times of conquest or an ambitious computer game. However, this is very real. People are dying. Normal people who just want to live their lives: go to school, learn, work, have families, die gracefully. We see it on the television and in the newspapers and it’s like watching a film or playing a strategy game on Playstation. The people involved can’t switch it off. They’re not graphics or actors – they’re people, just like you.

What’s it got to do with the West? This is very much our problem as some of these fighters, these enablers, come from where you live. They appear to be normal people that live in the house next to you. Their families say they are horrified and astonished that their sons have gone off to fight in this conflict. Where were they? Where were their parenting skills? Their religious leaders, the ones that go to the same Asda as you on a Saturday afternoon, are quick to point out that they didn’t encourage it, that they don’t condone it, that it’s nothing to do with them. It’s very much to do with them. It’s very much to do with us all.

There’s an enormous contrast between ISIS and their brutal murderous conquest methodology and of the developed West and their determination not to offend anyone and their political correctness. In the UK, it’s likely any returning fighters would be subject to some kind of criminal proceedings but that would likely be hard to prove and more importantly, hard to even identify. These Jihadis have the same passports as you do. There’s the horrendous cost of monitoring them and the likely failures in trying to do that. We know that it’s unlikely a person will go through a God appointed religious war and then come back and stack shelves in Tesco when it’s finished. There’s no way back to normal for them. They’re not going to get friends and family around and show them a slideshow of what they did that summer.

Ideological wars can’t end unless there’s complete defeat or the ideology is successfully implemented. If you feel empowered by God and compelled to act, you’re unlikely to downsize your thinking  from bombings and murder to leafleting.

So why do young people, growing up in Western society suddenly take up arms and want to install what is effectively a new society? From a Western perspective, Sharia law is very harsh, although very likely to have been demonised in the media. Why would someone want to completely change the way their own society works? They must judge it as broken, something they can no longer live within. People convince them that change is possible. The excitement of making these changes, with your soul underwritten by God Himself, is a very powerful argument for the disillusioned.

Society should provide for future generations – this is how the human race evolves and what we should aspire to. One day an event will wipe out Earth as we know it – be it an asteroid or plague. To survive, we must have developed sufficiently to colonise the stars. Young people today are thrown into an increasingly competitive and global world where success is hard to achieve. Success is also defined by the media and the definition is unrealistic and supported by glossy pictures and sensational statistics. Most people will struggle to find what they’ve been told is a dull job. In today’s internet world of “now” this is not enough. They’ll never attain the levels that they read about and will consider themselves as failures. With information so readily available, this defined failure is inevitable.

Today, a lot of people will not get to this part of the Blog – they want Tweets – everything quickly and in small easy-to-process chunks. They want a better life for themselves, they want it now. Fighting an ideological war powered by sheer faith is a way to get it quickly. It’s also fast and exciting, just like a movie. If you believe the media, it’s quite easy to get to Syria through Turkey. The internet makes the world smaller. You can communicate with people all across the world in seconds and set up meetings and groups. It’s too fast and our foot is jammed on the accelerator. The car will run out of gas or it will crash.

We’re so concerned about infringing personal freedoms and allowing the individual to express him or herself that we risk our own freedom to do it. When these fighters are defeated – and they will be – and they come home to your Western country – which they will do – and continue their Jihad – which they will do – the cosseted way they are treated will cost you your freedom. Tell me how free you are when your arms and legs are blown off at the train station on your way home from work. A fairer solution is to be proactive and not reactive in response to their actions.

Consider the Emperor’s New Clothes. We are too busy telling each other how free we are, how fair we are and how great that is whilst the shadow spreads towards us from the corner. Society is where society is. We don’t owe anyone the effort of rehabilitation once they cross that line and reject it. The cost of this folly will be large but people see it as possible. Potential new recruits need to know what the penalties are before they go, not that they can come home and be welcomed back.

Providing youth centres and job opportunities and the like is not enough – it won’t solve the problem. Religious leaders telling their followers not to follow this path is not going to work either. Other people are offering a more interesting and fast acting message to the bored and the restless. The recent footage of three UK teenagers that have gone to fight Jihad left their parents and local Mosque individuals stunned and shocked. If they didn’t even know their sons were radicalised then what chance do we have? Were they blind? The internet is blamed as an easy-to-use medium for spreading the word. Can we stop that? No. One said he will return and finish his study to become a doctor. Do you want a man with blood on his hands working in a hospital or as a GP?

The internet is a Petri dish and the Jihadist word spreads like an articulate virus. Do you or can you reason with a virus? No. You have to provide harsh conditions so that it cannot survive. Not doing this allows and encourages the virus to multiply quickly. Soon it escapes the dish and is on your hand. Then it’s too late.

Empires rise and fall. Religions grow and religions diminish. The historical precedent suggests otherwise but the only way that society can develop is by respecting others and their faith (all of them) and not forcing your views and behaviour on other people. The vast majority of society does this and multi-cultural societies are rich and humanity should be proud of its diversity. However, the meek will not inherit the earth.


Syria – peace breaks out … I assume it has, anyway

Posted by Steve on October 8, 2013
Posted in Current Affairs 

The Syrian situation has drifted away from the news somewhat. Back to IMF forecasts, house price bubbles, Baby P and Higgs boson. The Royal Mail privatisation awaits us just around the corner with tales of City speculation filling the pockets of those dastardly bankers.

It’s widely accepted that someone – we still don’t know who and apparently have not remembered to want to know – dropped chemical weapons on population centres and killed a lot of civilians. The government of Syria has told the UN what weapon stores they have and the United Nations are organising themselves to destroy them. Off the news, job done. It’s as if everyone in Syria suddenly found peace, had a cup of tea and had a laugh and a joke about it.

Let’s hope the Syrian government, responsible for building this horrific stockpile, have decided to be honest and reveal everything. Either way, whomever dropped the offending bombs has certainly succeeded in removing a lot of dangerous ordnance. It does make you wonder who might have had the biggest motive when launching those attacks? I do use the plural – as there was more than one.

It seems that the government – and rebels – dropping conventional weapons is no longer newsworthy. Tell that to the people cowering in the shadows of rubble and unsafe buildings, living without basic services and in fear of their lives every minute of every day. If an old WWI hand grenade lands on your head, there’s not much to talk about from your perspective in regards to outcome between that, an atomic bomb and some falling masonry. I suspect some of those poor people would gladly suck down a lung-full of Sarin gas rather than live out their current existence. It wasn’t long ago that they were going to school and work, just like you and I.

As things move on, The News gets bored – it can’t repeat nothing for 24 hours a day. Things become normal, accepted. There was a set of co-ordinated bomb attacks in Baghdad just recently – at least 22 people dead, probably many injured. It’s in the newspaper but you’ll have to look at 16 across in the crossword section: 6 letters – who cares?

Westgate shopping mall atrocity

Posted by Steve on September 29, 2013
Posted in Current Affairs 

Again, “terror” rears its ugly head with the horrific attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya. Again, people are prepared to die for their cause in a storm of blood and glory. Again, the victims are innocent – normal people out shopping. Again, after a period of morbid fascination, life moves on for people in the world, people forget about it and the story fades into background noise. Again, impressionable and vulnerable people will do things because they truly believe in what they do and that they are acting on God’s command. There can be no greater justification for the abandonment of reason. How can people operating under pure faith ever be beaten? They talk about increased education or lifting people out of poverty. That is all pie-in-the-sky impractical nonsense. Flipping it around, can the terrorists “win”? Can they impose their way of life across the entire world by bombing their way to victory? Of course not. They must know this. They must believe that the pursuit of victory, however unlikely, is victory itself. That leaves us needing to change their goal, the goal that has been, in their minds, sent to them by God.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for this massacre, putting their name into the public psyche. They are probably fortunate that their name rhymes with kebab – it’s how they will be remembered by the common masses in months to come. They used the internet to tweet statements about their progress and to broadcast political messages, showing a very modern sense of marketing. Their problem being that no one is really listening. People are consumed by apathy and a sense of disconnection. Kenya? In Africa, somewhere, big shame, what’s for dinner?

After the 7/7 bombings in London, even the 9/11 attack in New York, there was an enormous sense of fury, anger, fear, astonishment and desire for revenge. Then, I think there was a sense of puzzlement. Why? What do they want? British citizens were responsible for 7/7, attacking their own country. They had followed their convictions and blown themselves up into a thousand pieces, taking 52 people with them. Many others suffered injuries and countless more were affected indirectly. For what? They created a tsunami that became a wave, which turned to a ripple and a memory – outside of those directly involved, of course. Did they move nearer to their goal? They certainly hit out at the society they had grown up in and come to despise, yes, but did they move in any way towards an Islamic state in the UK? No. If their progress to that goal could have moved backwards from zero then it would have done. According to a BBC poll, a quarter of young British people ‘do not trust Muslims’. It’s incredible to even consider conducting a poll based on the trust of people based on their religion. If it does not affect others, what men and women do in their own time should be completely their own choice and should not change what others think about them. If the man next door wants to worship the Sun God, Ra, who am I to have an opinion of him or to judge him? Who am I to tell him he is wrong and that he should worship and serve another God? Think also of numbers. In the 2011 Census, 4.8% of the UK population practiced Islam. That’s 2.7 million people. Of those people, the number radicalized or capable of being so is tiny, yet those few are in a large way responsible for large scale distrust. This distrust breeds resentment within the Muslim community, which splits society further. It becomes an unbreakable circle. It’s easy to say peaceful Muslims should do more to stop the radicalization process but that’s lazy. It assumes the radicals would listen to people that they believe have in some way betrayed their God through lack of action.

It’s a very unhealthy situation and it is hard to see a way out of it.

What makes a terrorist?

Posted by Steve on April 21, 2013
Posted in Current Affairs 

After the horrific terrorist attacks on Boston and the pursuit and capture of the perpetrators, we assume that the reasons behind the attacks were of a religious nature.

Religion offers hope, comfort and direction to the masses, filling an impossible space of understanding: why am I here, what am I supposed to do, how was the world created, what happens when I die? Whether you are religious or not, you would imagine that religion – whichever one – would bring only good into the world. If I see a religious figure, I don’t feel anything other than respect for that person and for their faith even if I don’t believe in it – and most of them have a central theme that says and promotes only good things. If they are casting light into people’s lives, this can only be good for everyone, can’t it?

Looking back over history, nothing divides people more than religion. Accordingly, it has brought death and destruction from those seeking to spread their religion amongst others and typically to assert itself over the religion currently in residence – be it mainstream or pagan. Violence is normally the instrument. This is not a modern phenomenon. Religious enclaves in deepest Africa and other remote places were the result of conquest and subsequent implementation, in the main. People in those regions can see that as a blessing or as an invasion – depends on which family they are born into and therefore which perspective they are given as children. After all, it’s only history that dictates whether a group are freedom fighters or terrorists – it depends which side wins.

I saw the footage of the terrorists walking amongst the public at the Boston marathon. They mixed with children watching their parents race, people cheering on others to overcome the physical challenge of a 26 mile race and they looked upon innocent people doing nothing but engaging in wholesome fun. Those innocent people were not pushing any religious or political agenda, threatening anyone or doing anything to harm anyone. The images in the terrorist’s eyes didn’t change the outcome this time but how many times previously has an attack been averted? How many times have would-be terrorists come to their senses at the last minute?

It makes me wonder how a person can knowingly explode a device in a crowd of people, people that the person has never even met but hates enough to kill. In this case, if the spectators were not killed, the bombs were designed to cause maximum injuries by being packed with shrapnel. That’s not blowing up a building to make a statement, after a warning to allow for an evacuation, that’s something altogether different. You understand this type of activity in a war, with a soldier targeting enemy soldiers – horrific as it sounds – but these were families, not combatants. You would think a sane person would be unable to follow through with such an action in a crowd at a sporting event in a city. You would think they would simply stop and think, “no, I can’t do this.”

These people are driven by real faith and true unwavering belief. They believe that God himself has told them to perform these acts and that they are doing the right thing.

Even if you are not religious, imagine that a God appeared directly before you and you were convinced that it really was the creator of the universe, that you believed without question that whatever He said was right and that He was showing you a path to what He wanted you to do. That sounds far fetched so consider reading a holy text or any other methodology to promote the same reaction.

Imagine that the message to you was that all people that did not believe in Him were evil and that He wanted you to destroy them. You had to do this in order to make it into heaven else you went to hell forever. You completely believe this. You cannot question the creator’s words for obvious reasons. Taken in this context, I can start to understand how people can commit such appalling acts. Of course, they’re not “people” as you and I would understand them – they are driven by blind faith (which is not subject to reason), fear that extends outside of human boundaries and by others who are manipulating them. They have ceased to be human when they believe they have been instructed by a god and so they do not act as one.

Aggrieved people congregate in groups of other aggrieved people and become vulnerable to the influences of others. They may be angry at the world for a number of reasons. It could be anger at world events, unemployment, boredom, family pressures, anything. Those who influence others will exploit those young people in the name of religion where they can give them a sense of meaning and belonging. They can link their more mundane suffering with “brothers” in other parts of the world who are suffering from real pain and human misery. The only link is their religion. In reality, there are many aggrieved people angry at the world for all sorts of similar reasons with no commonality to any religion.

The manipulators will tell them that the group’s own ideals of society are more holy and worthy and that they should strive to make their society change to those ideals – and the only way to do that is violence. Interestingly, those same people will not shy away from taking advantage of the West’s capitalist opportunities nor will go and live in their more ideal society, which is often less technologically advanced and suffers from poverty and political oppression. There’s simple hypocrisy at work, here. They don’t like society in the West and want to change it but they do not want to live where the ideal society exists either – else the simple option would be to go there. Their ideology is therefore not a major part of their motivation. What is it then?

I wonder if I had lived in a country where a foreign power had – for whatever reason – destroyed large parts of the national infrastructure and many innocent people had been killed, whether I would take up arms and commit acts of terrorism myself. Consider that you had seen your family blown up or horrifically injured and how that would make you feel and how your outlook may change – particularly if you were just a hard working and decent family, trying to make a living. I don’t think you can know unless it happens to you. You would certainly be more vulnerable and more easy to manipulate.

For many years now, the news often reports a bomb attack in a marketplace or a Mosque in a country in the Middle East – describing many deaths: people shopping or praying – doing simple things that every human has the right to do in peace. We are now numb to it in the West. It will often follow much more mundane news items. The ongoing situation in Syria is barely mentioned although its Government attacks its own people with missiles and heavy armoury. There seems to be no empathy about it in our media, with any sympathy diluted because it happens so often. There’s also a feeling of being unable to help and being disconnected. In Iraq, no matter how we dress it up, the West has displaced one despotic leader who caused misery in his own country, with a divided country that will continue to attack itself. Has the toppling of Saddam Hussein really helped in the end? In Syria, the West cannot intervene as it would be seen as war mongering and after natural resources but, yet, is criticised for not intervening because of human rights abuses. I wonder what the citizens on the ground would prefer?

I believe some Taliban members may have been recruited because they wanted to exact revenge against foreign invaders who have killed members of their family. You can see why that could happen. However, the terrorists that we see operating in the West seem to be acting from ideology and coercion and not from revenge. When you see young men who have lived away from their spiritual homelands for a long time (as the Boston terrorists had) or had never lived there at all, bonded only by a common religion, it makes you think there’s a fundamental point that we’re all missing.

It’s something that is probably impossible to solve. Something that probably will and always live in the human psyche. It’s why football fans fight each other, kids at school form gangs, it’s how monkeys form groups with hierarchies that oppose other monkey groups, it’s why Welsh people dislike English people (although they are not separated by anything other than a name) and why one religion will never truly tolerate another, no matter what they say to the contrary. Humans and other animals form groups and want to feel part of a group in opposition to other groups. The groups will compete to be the best – pushing boundaries as they go. When part of a group, an individual will follow a role and perform his or her duty as the group’s governance and direction becomes critical. It’s how any army must work, it’s how an office works, it’s how a football team works, it’s how junior school “gangs” organise their games. This grouping and competitive nature is why we don’t live in caves and have together built and rebuilt civilisations and walked on the moon. Unfortunately, errant groups can convince young people to kill other people, including almost always, themselves.