Tag Archives: police

What would Wonder Woman do?

About the terror attacks this week and what happened next

 

I’d like to emphasise that’s Kabul, Baghdad and Coptic Christians as well as Manchester.

 

I predicted and worried about this – that more attacks bred more attacks and more armed police and less freedom; that the death penalty has got in though a side door and that the trial by jury at the heart of democracy is being eroded. It’s not just Canterbury and London now – they’re in all the county towns, at stations, zoos, outside libraries.

 

I don’t feel safer – I feel more wary. It puts me off doing things. I feel relieved if I’ve not seen armed police or been somewhere that expects me to be searched – a world sadly familiar to those in the Middle East and to Black and Asian men respectively.

 

Fighting suicide bombers with guns doesn’t make sense – they are planning to die and will detonate rather than let you kill them. Shooting them in the torso is just where their bomb is. So what are the guns really for?

 

Guns are bullying, cowardly weapons that give you power over others, often from a distance. They easily get misfired and when we live in a panicked environment, we can make paranoid mistakes.

 

Officers in Britain – who’ve been largely unarmed till now, like the population – were wary of stepping up to the arming call, afraid of investigations if they misuse the gun.

Good – but why only just investigations? If I carry a gun on the street, let alone use it, let alone kill someone, I’ll be in prison both sides of the trial; I may stay there.

So why should police expect to be above the law that they are (ugly word coming up) enforcing?

 

Now that children have been targeted, police are more willing it seems. “It’s the best way I can protect myself and the public,” one policewoman said. Note the order of that.

 

Many words have been poured out in sympathy already, and take mine as a given, but I will focus this post on something less said, which needs to be.

 

Before I say it, I’d like to return to an old friend of mine, one who featured early in this blog 6 years ago, and who’s getting her first big screen outing released today – yes I’m going! (‘Twas brilliant).

Yes I am wearing long boots with a heel in her honour, and guess which 3 colours?

Let us contrast her way of dealing with problems with the police:

(Note these are general WW principles and change between comic/screenwriters)

 

1) Wonder Woman doesn’t fire bullets, she deflects them

-significant morally as well as operationally

Wonder Woman is only armed with her truth lasso

(Ms Gadot has a sword but she thought guns dishonourable fighting)

Her plane is purely for transport – it doesn’t drop bombs

She befriends animals, she doesn’t use them as weapons

 

2) Wonder Woman works with the authorities and is respected by them, but she is independent and she is not part of a huge force

Unless you count the Justice League, but they tend to be outnumbered rather than outnumber their opponents. Unlike police who overkill, literally; a whole squad after one person (even not dangerous ones) which wastes resources – and police claim they don’t have enough

(Don’t start me on police using foodbanks on ‘only’ £20k… try £30 a week!)

 

3) Wonder Woman is approachable Unlike po faced armed officers who we’re afraid to say anything to, even good morning. Wonder Woman retains her humour. She doesn’t yell, especially not at the general public.

 

4) Wonder Woman is compassionate A quality not in the police and army much; it’s why their personalities and training mean that they’re not the right people to handle many situations entrusted to them. Wonder Woman’s someone you’d cry on. Not most PCs.

And she knows the difference between being tough and strong

 

5) Wonder Woman is not dressed to kill or intimidate

Her face isn’t covered; no mirror glasses, no bully boy armour

 

6) Wonder Woman has a global view, inside (since she’s living among us) but outside (since she’s alien). She can point out our follies and since she’s so old, she has great wisdom, watching nations repeat mistakes for millennia

She’d also see what’s really happening, the even more despicable terror.

 

7) Wonder Woman doesn’t kill or use unnecessary force

She does her own undercover work; she doesn’t use assets

 

8) Wonder Woman knows when to talk instead of fight and can transform would-be crime doers. Wonder Woman believes in redemption and forgiveness

 

9) Wonder Woman thinks for herself. Hannah Arendt would approve – for she knows the peril of taking and giving orders without question

 

10) Wonder Woman

makes a hawk a dove

stops the war with love

changes minds (and hearts)

and changes the world.

 

It’s the far more effective way – not retribution, not meeting violence and fear with more.

Not weak, fluffy, unreal.

 

No wonder Ms magazine cover emblazoned: “Wonder Woman for president”.

I’d like to her preside over a lot more.

 

Finally, to what I didn’t yet say….

I was reminded this week of James Alison’s book On Being Liked and his first essay in it Contemplation of a World of Violence, written in autumn 2001. He points out that such acts are given sacred meaning and that we are sucked in collectively, policed as to what we can say (a new heresy) and given specific behaviours in response.

He encourages us to not be drawn into that, but to One who can show us a new way to see, one who subverted violence by seemingly giving into it and then overcoming it to say I’m nothing to do with this system; there is another way to live.

The One is not Wonder Woman this time.

 

 

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Is the poppy our most sacred symbol?

Reading about previous year arrests for acts that seemed to denigrate the emblem, I am wondering if the same would be true of a key religious symbol, or a national flag. I know that Christians have had various attacks – such as Francis Bacon’s crucifix in a pot of piss, or an episode of Jonathan Creek, or even you could say, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Did they spark off arrests and complaints in the way that teenager from Canterbury experienced last year, or a Muslim the year before?

The end of the first story seems to be that the Kentish offender was let off as he agreed to meet war veterans to apologise. It seems a resocialisation went on – is that what restorative justice is? It recalled an episode in prison drama Bad Girls where a character who had accidently killed through an angry practical joke was made to face her victim’s family. Is a poppy burning photo on social media with an alleged crude comment on a par with that act of irresponsible manslaughter?

It felt like this young man had to also face his elders (and betters) and be turned into the kind of citizen that’s appropriate, or desired. Orwell had another word for that.

Whether offence can be an offence is interesting to debate and a hard line to draw, but for any of us with a faith or who support for anything that’s unfashionable and unpalatable to those around, we might feel it unfair that our deeply held beliefs are not a police matter, and yet ones that are a political tool are. It reminds of what I wrote in the summer about the homophobic comments of a pastor about the local Rainbow Pride parade – horrid, hurtful (I’d argue more than poppy burning as some gay people carry an almost suicidal guilt burden and fear of persecution, but our soldiers are venerated) – but rightly a police affair?

Along with the Holocaust, the poppy is a matter to tread carefully on. I note that it’s an offense to trivialise or deny the Holocaust in Germany now. Yet I feel the reasons behind this German rule are different to our poppy ones; one is a kind of rehabilitation programme, a keen (in the sharply felt sense) appropriation of past guilt in an attempt to atone, but it’s also the reverse of whitewashing or glorifying the horrors of war. The Poppy is something else…

I’ve read several online comments about the poppy as well as attended services yesterday.
I agree with the well penned words of Harry Leslie Smith in the Guardian, a man who was born shortly after the first world war and fought in the second. He explains why this is the last year he’ll go to the cenotaph and wear a poppy, although he will continue to remember the war and his friends and colleagues privately. I was surprised by how many younger people disagreed with him and will continue to wear the red flower, using phrases like “gave their lives” and “honour”, saying the Poppy shouldn’t be commandeered by the politicians as a tool to steer our thinking about today’s wars and ourselves as a nation, or shunned because of it; its meaning and the donation go to better things.

But I looked at the British Legion website and I find it hard for anyone to claim that they aren’t part of the jingoism, that the political meaning of a poppy is nothing to do with an organisation who has changed its strapline to “Shoulder to Shoulder with those who Serve”. The people chosen to say “Why I wear a poppy” all had loved ones in wars, describing in emotive language the loss, bravery and sacrifice, and the use of debt and respect for their part in freedom preserving battles.

Reading the White poppy people (Peace Pledge Union) website is quite a different experience. The fact I recall most is that their annual budget is the same as the chief of British Legion’s salary. The white poppy, as its centre says, is about peace and ending wars. The red poppy isn’t now the encapsulation of 60s protest song “Where have all the flowers gone”: it’s more Rupert Brooke than Siegfried Sassoon.

I suppose the Christian cross is a symbol that can mean many things, as can the St George’s Cross. The stars and stripes might mean the worst or best of what America stands for. But if the exclusive people who made my national flag had a particular slant and my donation to buy one went to them, I might think about whether I wanted to adopt that symbol, whatever its genesis. I’ve heard feminists reclaim the cross, but they don’t pay a patent to wear one round their neck. If all cross necklaces came from a specific denomination with a particular mission, expressed in particular words…

I reluctantly agree that as Big Brother Watch says, freedom of expression means the right to offend and do crass and unkind things. BBW fought against the arrest of the Canterbury young man, though I am also not saying what he did was a good thing. But I note I would be afraid to say so if I did, and that is wrong. There are no holy wars or crusades. Much of war is coercion, money making and power wielding (or returning power) and it is an exercise in encouraging one’s citizens to overlook other issues by telling us there is a greater enemy than our own establishment, and that we must unite and be obedient, even unto death, and to speak against it becomes not just offence, but civic and secular blasphemy.

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Pride and Prejudice: Minister accused of gay hate crimes

It’s ironic that on the day I finish editing my novel about synthesising being gay and Christian, there’s a news story on just that in the city in which my story is set. The front page of the local rag has a picture of a pastor set against the recent gay Pride parade. His email to the organisers has earned him a hate crime allegation with the police.

I felt many things as I read that story.

First was the irony that this same newspaper published the faces and names of men at a homosexual gathering which got raided to shame them. It was mentioned at a Pride event – local gay people have not forgotten how their paper treated them.  Perhaps fearing hate crimes allegations directed at itself, the paper now covers the Pride celebration like any other local event. Its tone in this article seemed to be firmly with the LGBT community and against this local evangelical minister.

My second feeling is that this paper’s article is very biased and poor. We do not know what the email of “homophobic language” contained. We are only told that the minister, Alan Clifford,  went up to a stall at Pride and offered an exchange of leaflets. His were called “Good news for Gays” and “Jesus – Saviour of us All”. Too true, I thought; for God loves gay people and is here for us as much as anyone else. Further research confirms the tenor of the minster’s views – that ‘gays’ are perverts who need curing – which has become international news. His views are upsetting, angering – and make me sad.

My next thought was regret that the Pride organisers made this email into a police affair. If I had received an email of the sort I am assuming was sent from Dr C, I would have written back, explaining my views and challenging his. I’d have directed him to George Hopper’s pamphlet “The Reluctant Journey” about a Methodist who, on exploring the Biblical teaching on being gay and actually meeting some, had a complete change of heart. He is celebrated as a supporter of gay Christian people, whilst retaining his more evangelical and Bible based faith. I hope my own book might assist with this too.

I believe that challenge and heart changing is far more productive than crime making. What the latter does is reverse the oppression, so that traditional Christians and other faiths feel they’re persecuted ones, and wonder how equality and anti discrimination works when they are being silenced. You give prejudiced people more reason to feel it, and more reason to band together – Dr Clifford is already hailed as being persecuted for witnessing. Two papers copying each other ended that the minster is anti Muslim too. But saying that Jesus is greater than Mohammed is not Islamophobic  – for Christians, Jesus as God is higher than any prophet, and banning or deriding that statement is not allowing freedom of belief. There is far more genuine Islamophobia in the media and from politicians, which I abhor.

I also note the irony that complaints about Dr Clifford being offensive to lead to investigation; but he cannot call the other side offensive and register a complaint.

I would like to see an end to all such offensives.

I’ve now read Dr Clifford’s response. He makes two other valid points – that the intention was compassionate campaigning, not to harass; and that ‘homophobia’ is a misnomer, for prejudice is not fear. Perhaps there is a little fear in anti gay sentiment, of the notion that they are set to break up the order of your society, and what being open to them might mean for your faith journey. It’s something I can relate to, but I am glad of where that journey took me and to whom I now embrace, not decry.

The other concern is – we have too much police control, and that police were experienced as aggressive at this event. Like the local paper, they have turned from breaking up gay meetings to supporting gay people. This is admirable in principle.

It seems we are now in a minefield where freedom of speech as ever is being eroded – even on matters where one sympathises. Sentiments which hurt and insult others who have perhaps already been through stress should not go unchecked – they should be challenged.  But not be afraid to broadcast a view lest it leads to a police record.

I am deeply saddened when people use their freedom of speech to curtail the freedoms of others. I cannot understand why those whose central message ought to be about love see a legitimate expression of it as an aberration, something abhorrent to be campaigned against rather than celebrated. When a faith should be about a better world – more free, more loving, more understanding – I am despondent that some preach hatred and separation instead of inclusion. I refer them to the Easter sermon that was preached in the film version of Chocolat.

It’s PR like this that harms evangelical Christianity especially – you are not serving, you are doing a disservice.

But I am sad at the other team too. Subverting and reversing freedom and anger is no way to be better understood and accepted by those not yet able and willing to do so. It’ll keep those Christians with feeling they’re misunderstood victims who must stick together and fight for the cause. It means the circle might go round again, spinning between bashing gay people or Bible bashers, depending on who has the most sway on leadership.

We don’t want any bashing. We want a world where such differences are no longer divisions, and people don’t not say or do something for fear of reprisal, but because they no longer feel it.

It also seems my novel’s message is still much needed, for both sides.

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Police commissioner – why I’m not voting

There has been some talk that voting should be compulsory. Yes people died to allow all to vote – but it is an opportunity – it should not become a requirement, with further policing to force us.

 

As I’ve said before I suspect the lack of turnout is the belief that voting doesn’t work: that first past the post system does not mean our choice will even count; or that all the candidates are much the same – and none of them are who we would like or who will make a positive difference.

 

Many people in Britain feel that voting for their local police commissioner is not something they want to bother going to the poll booths for. Candidates mostly stand for a political party and the ones I have read of do not impress.

 

What I fear this move is about is creating pleasing seeming statistics, and more “tough on crime” talk. It could make life hard for both the police and the public.

 

What policing should be about:

‘Police’ is an unfortunate phase, a verb that means to nose and control. What we need is a body who helps keep us safe through laws only needed for protection – and not the powerful few. Laws should not be excuses to collect revenue for governments through fines. They should not be nannying, controlling punitive rules. We should not fear or distrust our police, who should not be curtailing freedom of expression.

 

The Green Party, who did not want this to come to vote, put questions to the candidates, including public accountability and the right to peaceful protest.

 

Nationally, we read regularly of police brutalities to protesters; and in the last week, there has been news that questions the behaviour of undercover police.

 

My local force has recently blasted front pages with their sprees of raids, and threaten more; their ‘message to criminals’ is, when finally deciphered, is aimed at minor crimes and a show of strength. Raids should be about emergency  rescue, not minor drug dealers. It also publicly sent messages to potential kerb crawlers, displaying their car number plates.

 

Meanwhile, it made reporting crime (which was largely down to their lack of doing their duty) more trouble than it was worth and failed to follow up a complaint for inappropriate behaviour.

 

I think many of us have mixed stories of the police, and as we pay for them through council tax, they especially need to be accountable to us and doing something worthwhile.

 

As there is no space on the voting form for ‘none of these’ or ‘I don’t want this’, I am saying it here, and making clear what kind of police force we expect and need, and making a stand against the force we often actually get.

 

I hope the prediction of under 15% turnout is true – do not we have a law that there needs to be a minimum proportion for a vote to count? Most of us don’t want this imposed on us – isn’t that a voice in itself?

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Whistleblower

is a 2010 film starring Rachel Weisz about the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac.

It’s the flip side of My Age of Consent post on Socyberty (link in previous post). I want to make clear that I take abuse very seriously. Whereas some young women manipulate older people and it is inappropriate to call what might be unwise and unhealthy relationships child abuse, this film is clearly a story of what is.

In fact the legal ages are irrelevant, as what is happening is horrific and wrong for anyone of any age. It would not be less shocking if these were over 21s, and no less horrible for those that suffered.

I am not going to make any explicit comments here, should anyone be alarmed. The film too conveys horror without detail.

One one level, I am impressed by the film. It is based on the memoir of an American former police woman who was sent to Bosnia in the late 1990s as a peacekeeper, and who uncovered wide spread trafficking overlooked and often used by personnel of international military, law enforcing and peacekeeping organisations.

First of all, I want to back up. Why is an alien country going into one already torn with civil war, to have a foreign military and police help them sort out their problems?! What right does another country have to go barging and interfering, setting themselves up as world police?! Do any of these countries exemplify a perfectly just, libertarian society? No!! In fact as I shall write in the future, I don’t think democracy is the best system; I am intrigued by Isonomy as suggested by a former lecturer. (This could end up going back into another summer of Wonder Woman, who upheld democracy – see my earliest posts). And I feel that the US particularly* is not in a position to show another country how fairness works; there’s enough corruption at home without spreading it to a land limping after years of guerrilla warfare.

Spreading that corruption is exactly what seems to be happening.

Even Kathryn’s contract was dubious – $100,000 for 6 months work – tax free. After the global financial problems and cuts, such pay makes me livid – why should anyone work even indirectly for a government and be exempt from contributing with such a high salary?! “Is this even legal?” Kathy asks in the film. It shouldn’t be.

Next, there is legal “immunity” for those working for the various organisations. In the film it is called Democria, a British registered international company recruiting army and police officers. There should never be immunity – if you’re wrong, you should be brought to justice.

I feel like I did after the Valerie Wilson Plame film, Fair Game – that I both admire the person for sticking up to a powerful system and telling the world what’s really happening; and dis-ease for their jobs. As much as I don’t support the work of the CIA, the peacekeepers (ironic title) are another shadowy force supposedly for the good of civilians. Anyone reading this very much will know my thoughts on the irony of suppressing liberty to protect it, of opaque organisations off public radar who want to hold secret courts  – yes I opposed that British proposal. (See https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/justice-is-restored-but-the-chickens-are-gone)

The verb ‘police’ is one I am uncomfortable with. Although I have seen police strap lines claiming role is support for the public, practice is one of non action when needed with heaviness when it is not.

Kathy wants better recruitment and training for those doing her work – and clearly she took her police role seriously and genuinely, as I’m sure many others do. But that shouldn’t be a surprise – people shouldn’t be getting through the recruitment net who don’t. She recognised the need for better cultural understating in her role, but I really feel outsiders should not be there, especially as she’s shown the UN to have serious corruption at its core. She claims some officers were actually running the sex rings, while the organisation wouldn’t allow inquiries.

Death threats are are sure sign that she’s right. Officials have made statements that Kathy is wrong, even that she deserved her dismissal… but why the threats if she was erroneous and had a genuine reason to be sacked? Why would she make such a thing up, and go to such a risk, especially if it only over sour grapes for a job loss?

I was pleased that the book has been published and a film made, with many well known actors keen to be involved, as well as being an opportunity for a first time director. But I can’t see that the Whistleblower got an airing in Britain, or perhaps as widely internationally as it might have been. It wasn’t nominated for any of the usual film awards, though it did get some humanitarian type ones. I can’t find a British release date for it, and I have checked my own film magazines and brochures – I don’t think it came to my city nor was it picked up by the major cinema chains. I found it in the library, a single copy, unlike the mass orders of some new films.

I am writing this partly to say, this is a film that needs to be seen. This is an issue that needs to be known – but what can be done to stop it?

And I am also voicing my mixed views. Portrayed by a favourite actress, it was easy to sympathise with the actions of Kathryn. Reading more about her, I felt conflicted and this is as much about keeping out of other countries and the immunity/tax free corruption as it is the atrocities being inflicted on young women.

*PS that was not meant to be an anti US diatribe. You know I criticise my own country enough!

Someday, I shall write an article called “Things I love about America”.  Several individuals will feature, including dear friends.

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Justice is restored but the chickens are gone

by me

I have been researching for my next post and I wanted to get it right. I have views on Poppy Day which passed before I had consolidated them. I had read various stories relating to war and the secret service, but also felt frankly afraid to voice them.

You will notice by now that I write against harmful systems and for justice and liberty. I am against control and propaganda. What I have to say this time particularly concerns those, linked by my unlikely sounding title.

‘Justice is restored’ refers to a missing statue. In that same town, something else that’s a known local feature has disappeared – the wild chickens who refused to move when their home became a roundabout on a busy bypass.

I saw a local news headline that ‘justice has been restored’, but then I wondered about that in larger terms. Each time I pick up a newspaper, I read something else which makes me angry because justice is being evaded or distorted. The people meant to protect justice curtail or suspend it for the citizens they are mean to be servants of. Policing of riots and protests; secret courts; laws coming in by a government we didn’t choose to make it ever harder for the public because of actions by rich people who are still rich. I suspect whatever country my readers are from, you can relate to this in some way.

I read Robert Harris’ wartime code breaking novel Enigma and again felt anger at the secret service. It may be fiction, but it is based on some truth. The public are recruited by a crossword competition; in the book Hester is told to sign the Official Secrets Act and stick to it or the gun on the desk beside the form will be used on her. She has not yet volunteered nor understands how her cryptic puzzle solving skills will be used or what threat she may be under. Tom is also recruited in an underhand way that leaves him little choice. He is threatened by security service officers who appear in his home to scare him off something he accidentally discovers.

It struck me that in the name of protecting democracy, secret services go against the very values that the countries they serve are built on: openness, honesty, trust; protecting the public so that we can go about our lives freely, without fear. I am always appalled when I read of how much control the military and government exerted in the war. What system can be worth fighting for when refusing means that your own side turns on you? Why does an army find the resources to harm conscientious objectors from its own people? In the 1970s TV series, Wonder Woman turns a Nazi through demonstrating that the German army did not care for its own and were happy to kill them. Wonder Woman implies that hers is the better side for its contrasting ethics and treatment. I did some wondering of my own.

After being shocked again at the Katyn forest massacre of Polish prisoners of war and how that the British knew but pretended not to, I decided to watch the Polish 2010 film Katyn to see what they had to say on it. I was horrified at how anyone could shoot thousands of men and dump them in a mass grave, as I was to see a country’s own police demand entry and haul its own people out of their homes to concentration camps in Sarah’s Key. Note none of this was Nazi doing.

Nationalism frightens me when it threatens to make us hate other people and to incite acts of cruelty against them. It is one thing to be proud and loyal of one’s country, another to use that to create otherness instead of brotherness (girls included). The world is our neighbour, not just those with the same passport.

I am struck by the propaganda about war in my own country and am wary of how public statements may be used to influence peer pressure and curtail dissent.

The head of Britain’s MI6 gave a speech about how secrecy is necessary for our country and the rest of the world to go about safely. Yet I don’t feel safe – not because I especially fear terrorism, but the shadowy world of government endorsed crime fighters. I am appalled that the tax office can use spying and that financial safety is a reason to for secret intelligence  – along with that much used slippery phrase ‘threat to national security’.

To complete my trilogy, I watched Fair Game, from the memoir of Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA agent (starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn). She was deliberately outed after her ex-diplomat husband Joe spoke out that he found no weapons of mass destruction and therefore the basis of the 2004 Iraq war was spurious. They fought a long battle against the CIA and the US government. I am unsure exactly where she stands on some issues – in her DVD commentary she does not comment on the question: ‘have you killed people’ or that the CIA bound and beat recruits as part of a training exercise to find their breaking point. Or that she recruited people by manipulation and stealth and that they were not protected by the agency but killed.

I did like her line: security should not stop freedom.

If people fear police and military and security agencies more than terrorism; if liberty is curtailed in the name of keeping us safe, then security ‘services’ are no longer morally or operationally justified as it is acting against their very raison d’être. I read that there have been calls to abolish some secret services. I wonder if any such an agency is really necessary or the best way to combat these problems.

A service built on secrecy and deception is not sound and clashes with the morals and codes of many faiths and ideologies. It involves falsely presenting oneself not only to the adversaries but to one’s own loved ones, meaning isolation for employees as well as anyone who is recruited or who accidentally has a brush with one.

Just as a faith and its true believers are more than and separate to the official church, a nation is not its government, its laws or its leaders and figureheads. These organisations do not get to say what it is we are defending or believing in.

A national interest is not something than an agency or minister defines.

You can’t have equal opps laws and boast of your diversity on one hand whilst enforcing conformity on another.

I am glad of the attempts by the intelligence agencies to be accountable in my country and of the laws which govern them. But then we don’t chose or scrutinise the ministers that call into account or make the laws. Democracy means ‘rule by the people’ but many of us in those kinds of societies don’t feel we get to do the choosing and have the input that so titled society ought.

The  ‘C’ of MI6 speech speaks of enjoying public confidence – which it needs. But stories about Guantanamo Bay, like those on the Canadian Homes Not Bombs site, and Britain’s foreign secretary’s ideas undermine that. I believe that is just part of what many of us are speaking out against. (I have also seen Friday’s news about US police and Occupy protestors).

If secret services fight threats to economic stability that harm the public, I consider they ought to be busy – at all those who caused the recession and its effects. There’s more damage done there by our own  supposed legit institutions than terrorists.

And lastly to those chickens. What do they represent? Freedom despite control. Not being part of the regime. A reminder of nature and how we try to dominate it. A Unitarian hymn at first shocked me by its triteness – but there’s something affirming about ‘the grass that breaks through the concrete’ and the chickens that roost despite the tarmac and concrete built round them. I see those chickens as a symbol of a simpler, more natural life, a refusal to let human bureaucratic control spoil their lives. Their absence therefore concerns me.

After calls to remove them, they were poisoned and attacked and then were rehoused reluctantly by the man who had been feeding them. I know what I infer from that.

And my final word for today on security:

To paraphrase what the Governor of Oregon said today regarding execution:

“I do not believe that these made us safer and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society.”

http://www.chickenroundabout.co.uk/

You can even buy a board game of it!

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A better way to deal with riots

Just a week before the riots in London began, I watched a TV film I had long wanted to see. Although hard to gain a DVD of it, it can be found on You Tube. It’s the 2002 ITV modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello, written by Andrew Davies and starring Keeley Hawes, Eammon Walker and Christopher Eccleston. It begins with rioting youths in London sparked by a death caused by police.

How Othello dealt with those riots is in stark contrast to how the real life Met are taking on the looting going on this week. Othello faced the crowds alone. His speech won them round and made him the new Police Chief Commissioner. He could see that there was a reason for the rioters to feel angry, and he held true to his pledge to investigate. He discovered that the death which set off the riots was a racial attack by police, and the matter went to court, as he vowed such behaviour had no place in the police force.

I am appalled to read today that the police use of plastic pellets have been authorised with water and gas being considered. To meet violence with violence is strategically and psychologically unsound. It only serves to escalate matters and the only peace comes with subjugation by an act so terrible that wounds continue to bleed for far longer than the fires rage. We ended the last world war that way.

I am not surprised at rioting as the tightening pressures of cuts after recessions, the exposing of various professions, an increasingly unpopular leadership by a government not voted for all mount public tension. I do not advocate violence at all – but that means on both sides. Those (sadly few) newspapers who ask why are there riots are better than those who call names and fuel the fires literally by some frankly shocking invocations. But asking why isn’t getting those questions to the rioters. It needs the police and prime minister to call a ceasefire and find out what is at the bottom of all this, rather than try to contain through weapons and toughness. It concerns me that leaders cannot see this and use such incendiary strategies that cause further harm.

But what they harm the most is their own image and public faith, because these riots seem to come out of an all time low relationship with our authorities, and the response by them serves to make that low greater. Trying to control angry citizens will ultimately lead to a loss of power – for those who hold power by force never retain it.

I’d exhort the police to watch Othello and try that response to quelling the riots by those methods instead.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSWlj8Ik7gI

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Policing protesters

Police heavy handedness is all too common a feature of our broadsheets. Today’s Independent and Guardian reported how protesters in the spring at a London department store were held for many hours and had their homes searched under the terrorism act; over 100 people face trial. There is rightly an outcry from many quarters. I am alarmed and angered that the reasoning is wasting of ‘court time and resources’ as one MP put it, or police time. What matters is that the freedom to peacefully protest is being taken away; and that bullying tactics make this not a free country. This is abuse of power, of law, and an assault to liberty.

Protesting againsta company’s tax evasion is nothing to do with terrorism. That should be tightened to a very slim definition of those using death or the threat of death to make a political point – such as bombings, hostage holding, siege by gunpoint. It is not for people camping out in a commercial premises who had no intention of harming anyone. The phrase ‘national security’ needs to be tightened to mean the above or foreign invasion. The MI5’s other remit, of threats to the economy, should be scrubbed as economy is not part of our national security and comes across as being more concerned about finance than liberty of its citizens.

When, like so many other countries, we are faced with insupportable cuts to deal with a so called debt caused by greedy and irresponsible financiers and our own government’s mistakes, we do not want our already heavy taxes being spent on taking away free comfortable livin. It makes one wonder what other  will be eroded. We want the right to speak up against losses to pension, student support, and all the other services that are suffering. And anything else that matters to us. Conflating demonstration with terrorism means the means to speak out is receding. That is not democracy, it is tyranny.

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The Royal Wedding

When I left my home to watch the nuptials at my local cinema, the city was quiet -much like any bank holiday. But I was surprised to see decorators and Big Issue sellers at work as normal. After the event, I stepped outside, hoping to hear local church bells ringing;  I strained to hear a little chime distantly. Most shops were closed, but while the majority took the advantage of another bank holiday’s rest, few displayed anything in their windows about the event. One restaurant said it was closing due to ‘the wedding’ – the monarchical aspect was dropped. Others had triangular flags on strings but avoided the national tricolours. From one window dangled a Chelsea football flag – not even a local team – for the next day’s match. 

I am among those who are proud of our monarchy and heritage. But I did note that the service used words which made me shudder – about the very negative church view of why we have marriage – to stop fornication and to have children. I noted with pleasure the lack of ‘obey’ in Kate (now Duchess)’s vows. The Guardian points out that the music was very imperial. I am proud, although most of the unfamilar pieces didn’t stick out, especially not the new piece composed by John Rutter. The choir descants spoiled favourite hymns as usual. And there was a heavy military feel to the day, which I struggled with as a pacifist.

I am bored by the silly media commentary and bitch comments about the attire of people I often have no interest in.

What does interest me is a parallel between the new princess (why does she have to have her husband’s first name?) and the one of the women I most admire in History. Although also not royal or aristocratic, Anne Boleyn did keep her first name when she became queen. Her wedding to Henry VIII was a private and secret affair – its date is not known – but her coronation is easier to compare to yesterday’s wedding. Anne Boleyn is a much maligned woman, whose enemies’ vilification programme has been successful for 400 years. She was not the grasping bitch whose reign was cut short by beheading; she was the real star of the Reformation who set up the kingdom ready for the successes that her daughter Elizabeth reaped. She was a woman who also knew that her costumes of public occasions spoke symbolically as statements, and used them well. Allegedly also dark (although Joanna Denny disagrees) and slim, Anne had to wait a similar time to Kate (possibly longer) before finally marrying into royalty. In contrast to choosing an established military uniform, Henry’s bridegroom outfits would have been as interesting to see as his wives’. I believe that Jonathan Rhys Myers commented on playing Henry in the Tudors TV series that this was the best dressed male in history. The costume designers for the show got a unique opportunity to make such splendid clothes for a male.

 I wonder what the metropolitan police would have done to control the crowds who allegedly booed Anne and threw things on her two mile ride through the capital.

Which brings me on to the bitter aftertaste of yesterday’s affair. In reading the papers, what’s stuck in my mind was the heavy handed response of police. I chose contrasting papers; the more local and conservative one only briefly mentioned the arrests as a low number, instead quoting the police on the nice atmosphere in Westminster. The self aggrandised left wing one spent much time on the feelings of suppressed republicans who feel their right to an anti royalist view was curtailed by pre-emptive police. On the same page that OK magazine had its huge Royal Wedding special advert, this paper reported on Bristol anti Tesco protests being escalated by riot police – who then got what they dressed for. Also this month, I read of another recent time when British police had stepped in aggressively citing ‘breach of the peace’ before any had been caused. Rightly, complaints are being made at all these incidents. It’s the same month that I watched Stuart: A Life Backwards about two real men that met over protesting that managers of a shelter where drugs were dealt were arrested in a raid and then imprisoned.

Whilst some are angry at the public expenses of yesterday’s ceremony, the real bill comes from security. We didn’t  pay for the Abbey or the reception or the dress; the uniting families met those costs. What the recession and cut weary nation did pay for was a multi-million police bill, involving stop and search on all those near the abbey as well as heavy handedness at republican parties. Security now spoils any large event, which are often full of peace, fun and neighbourliness to strangers. We’ve become obsessed with searching people and it really should not be tolerated. Yes, if we’re innocent we mind particularly. And this same police force, who we regularly pay our taxes towards, is rough handling other peaceful demonstrations against important matters and undermining our right to be a free country.

Vintage wartime posters are available to buy, and felt all the more appropriate with their crowned slogans in the light of our internationally followed royal wedding. The one that is most appropriate is ‘Your freedom is in peril – fight with all your might’. That doesn’t mean taking up arms – but it does mean the right to publish, speak publicly and privately,  and hold up placards should never be curtailed.

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