I awoke about 3am on 2nd March 2022 and a strange thought crossed my mind about the convoy of military vehicles sent into Ukraine which for reasons beyond my ken I thought of as ‘his lethal payload’ which is not a term I’ve ever dreamed of nor considered in the 70+ years I’ve lived.
I coined the phrase ‘His lethal payload’ to carry the meaning and outcome of the Russian intent and it cannot be just the misguided work of a leader gone mad; to carry out such a mission required the complicity of tens of thousands. The parallel with the invasion of Poland & France by Nazi forces in 1939 is uncanny. A leader led by paranoid delusions who had stifled all opposition and in this case has practiced destroying cities (and the inhabitants) in Syria has other parallels too; with Stalin, Pol Pot and the North Korean’s leadership. This is the scariest military action I have ever heard of and the poor people of Ukraine are about to go through an annihilation planned by the Russian ‘leader’ and his cronies. Megalomaniac is not a term too severe to describe the ‘leader’ preparing such a lethal onslaught and the lapdogs that carry it out. The ‘West’ is doing something parallel to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler and the consequences will probably lead to a conflagration into major war between Russia plus its allies and NATO forces. Even if that doesn’t occur it’s almost inevitable that thousands of brave Ukrainian defenders are about to die, many already have. This trajectory must be prevented by all means possible. Essentially the ‘leader’ has to be ousted somehow; he’s lost his marbles.
History tells us that there lived a man called Vlad in Transylvania (now in Romania) who purportedly killed many people. A man with the same name is in process of killing many more than his namesake. He knew exactly the consequences of his actions because he had practiced for years in Syria from which millions of people fled. (The UN estimate 4million will flee Ukraine). His planes sent missiles crashing down on cities which became bombed out ruins with people living underground trying to avoid being killed. He does this in support of a dictator who allegedly used chemical weapons in 2017.
The ‘West’ decided not to get involved because of previous errors of judgment perpetrated by Bush and his lapdog Blare. Whether that was a good decision remains to be assessed but the displacement of millions of Syrians speaks for itself.
Once again as Assad’s ally launched an unprovoked attack on a neighbour millions of people are being displaced and many are being killed including some in his 150,000 army. The big difference is that whereas in Syria they (his planes) encountered very little resistance in Ukraine there’s a determined desperation to fend off the invasion by a people who want to maintain their independence who have ground to air missilery which is giving the planes a resistance they didn’t experience in Syria.
A long long time ago my grandad fought the Kaiser in the trenches and a long time ago my dad fought Mussolini in Suez. Mussolini was a fascist like his ally by the name of Adolf. These men seem to believe that the use of military force and a plan enables them to ‘conquer’ and vanquish those they consider foes. Adolf hated Slavs and his aim was to annihilate them and in his attempt to do that he launched a massive attack on his Eastern front. Adolf seems to have been a bit dim as he didn’t learn from his own experience of war which ended in disaster for Germany in 1918. As it happens my dad was born in 1918 and 21 years later joined the Air Sea Rescue section of the British airforce to combat Adolf and his cronies. My predecessors sacrificed their liberty to live peaceful lives in order to help subdue fascist forces.
The man who is perpetrating the invasion of Ukrainian isn’t technically considered a fascist but what’s in a name? He laughingly called the leaders of Ukraine ’Nazis’ because he knows that will stir up strong emotions with some people who he also tells that Ukraine was a threat but significantly we don’t see Ukraine invading Russian soil but the Russian invasion of Ukraine is in full swing.
When I was in my pre-teenage years I discovered a beautiful book written by Ian Serraillier called The Silver Sword. It’s an incredibly moving story about some children who made the dangerous journey alone from Poland to Switzerland in search of their parents. I’m afraid that there’s going to be lone children among the millions fleeing Russian forces.
The image at the top is an incredible piece of synchronicity. I was planning this blArt and sitting early morning with my pen in my hand and I looked up at the fireplace, We have a crystal in the widow which sometimes sends rainbow patches of light across the room. THEN this apparition appeared. A gentle glowing on the candle which looked like it had lit up inside. As if i had lit a candle in memory of those who died, on all sides, in that onslaught known as the Battle of the Somme. I could hardly believe my eyes. This lighting effect has never occurred before. Eerie but beautiful. Bless them all.
This week the Burnley Express, the local paper which along with the Burnley News reported on the war at the time (1914-18), carried these words this week:
‘On the morning of July 1st 1916 men and boys from Burnley were among tens of thousands of soldiers ordered to go “over the top” only to be cut down by German machine gunners. More than 100 soldiers from the town were among the 57,000 British Army casualties suffered on the first day of the battle alone.’ (John Deehan firstname.lastname@example.org 27.06.2016)
Throughout 2016 I have been working toward a commemoration for those who fought in the horrendous human waste that was called the Somme battle (1July-18Nov 1916). I create images & words which I use in my own hand made ‘artist books’ and in my own ‘performance art’ pieces (PAP) where I create scenarios and enact ideas + events using my body, masks and other props to illustrate a story. I wanted to do my PAP around 1 July in somewhere like Burnley my home town, or Newcastle, my mother’s home area where her parents lost (my grandparent aged) relatives two years before she was born in 1918 and I met survivors of the conflict in 1961 or Colchester which is my adoptive home of culture. I did put feelers out but, like Paul Simon in his song The Boxer (hear a beau rendition by Mumford & son- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAl-vZsswb4 ), ‘I get no offers’, not even a come on from the whores of 7th avenue!
The way I see it I have ‘til Nov 18 2016 to do a piece for it to carry true resonance for those slaughtered as a result of the total incompetence of the ‘leaders’. Because these things take time to organise I don’t believe it’ll get done this year but then I have ‘til 11.11.2018 to at least fall within the compass of the century after WW1. I shall continue to find the venue and any backing to do my PAP but I am not holding my breath. I even approached the 14-18now group but I get no answer, maybe cos am not very famous, or maybe not very good! https://www.1418now.org.uk/
That’s no sour grapes of wrath it’s just a forlorn whelp in the wilderness!
Oh how history repeats itself; the ‘leaders’ of Britain’s government, Euro MPs (particularly Farage who rarely turns up to do his job and when he deigns to does so only to undermine the institution he was elected onto to represent the English people), the Labour(ing) and the England FA + their latest ridiculed manager all exhibit those same incompetencies today!).
I am going to blArt some of the words from my research and ideas about the Somme + the issues around those years of unnecessary carnage on which I would base my PAP. If there’s anyone interested out there please get in touch.
I found this startling blog called ‘In The Dark’ in which the writer mentions that the men were made to continue running towards machine guns- “Rather than calling off the attack in the face of the horrific slaughter, the powers that be carried on sending troops over the top to their doom for months on end. By the end of the battle (in November that year) the British losses were a staggering 420,000, while those on the German side were estimated at half a million.” https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2016/07/01/the-flowers-in-the-field-the-somme-remembered/ .
The imbeciles who organised these ‘battles’ (no, let’s call them mass murders) were the same social group that ‘led’ soldiers into battle in Africa against the brave Zulus at Rourke’s Drift and Isandlwana 37 years earlier, only in that case it was the Zulu leaders who sent their warriors in waves unprotected against the barrier of guns with the consequent carnage that ensued. (‘Isandlwana, the battle that rocked Victorian Britain; at which the Zulus wiped out a substantial British force’) Despite victory at Isandlwana the Zulu forces never recovered and they had to capitulate to the Europeans, who brought concentration camps to Africa during their internecine Boer War the victors of which then introduced apartheid.
Here’s the ideas I would base my PAP on BUT whereas the topic is of the greatest seriousness I do intend to add an element of sardonic humour, livening up the topic with surreal reflection as the famous sketch by Blackadder did, using the maniacal monarchs as objects of derision. I won’t say exactly how but think of fairground games like ‘ring toss’ and ‘bean bag tossing’ at tossers:
I have been reading about the Ancient Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians who all were involved in internecine wars and all succumbed to the Greeks (of Alexander The Vainglorious) who themselves eventually fell down under the inhumane slaughters that emanated from Rome. It seems to me (it’s not rocket science) that, like disease, war is a human condition, it goes with the patch!
I would have hoped (European) wars would have ended after Napoleon was incarcerated, or after WW1 or after WW2 but it never did. To name but a few; Burma, Korea, Vietnam, Biafra, Bangla Desh, Iraq & Afghanistan and now Syria’s war which is reminiscent of the carnage of the two ‘World Wars’. A triumvirate of my heroes, the present Dalai Lama, G I Gurdzhiev (G.) & Lennon, (illus)all advocate(d) that Ubeings (my word for Humankind which is gender absent or all equally inclusive) stop doing conflicts, which G. called mutual self-destruction.
The First World War was fabricated by monarchical maniacs who ‘ruled’ various ‘Empires’ which had been created by stealing land from and enslaving various indigenous populations throughout the world in the previous 3-400 years. When they turned their corporate venom onto their own peoples the carnage was incomprehensible. These “leaders” all thought they could use their mass-populaces as ‘cannon-fodder’ and they proceeded to do so and nobody was able to reverse, nor prevent, the carnage. The populations were led into the conflict believing it was for god & country when it was obviously for the dim-wits who ‘ruled’ them and the so called privileged ‘upper-class’ of each country to maintain their status quo, which many still maintain even in 2016, the present government of UK being a prime example.
Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses; Wilhelm II Kaiser Bill Frederick William Victor Albert of Prussia, George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert)GB, Nicholas II, Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov Russia, Franz Joseph I Austria- Hungary, Mehmed V Reshad (Ottoman Turk Sultan), & President Raymond Poincare (France).
Their Moronic Majesties Maniacal Madnesses led to the start of WW1 and its continuation despite the obvious insanity and mass murder it exhibited in battles like; Ypres, Verdun, Somme, Passchendaele & Gallipoli! The incompetence of the generals and the blindness of the political morons who manoeuvred the Brits into the mayhem and used the population’s (mostly) men* (from all around the ‘Empire’) as if they were like subuteo players, only this was no game but it was a deadly reality! Now I understand why I feel I was driven.
*I believe thousands of women also took part as nurses tending to the horrific injuries. “Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). It was founded in 1902 at the time of the Boer war and in 1914 was less than 300 strong. At the end of the war four years later it numbered over 10,000 nurses.” from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26838077
My Performance Art about the Somme is a tiny but explosive reminder of the destructive power held by military forces. The ability to decimate has increased a million fold in the hundred years since 1916, so beware taking the armed solution.
In my PAP (Performance Art Piece) A hundred yearns ago
I have ‘Tommy’ in the trench at the Somme*, July 1st 1916.
Ironically the word somme comes from a celtic word meaning ‘tranquil’!
Tommy gives a monologue in which he talks of finally having won this horrendous war.
‘No more maniacal leaders cos we won’t let them rise again! About a hundred years ago we fought Boney Fart & his Grenouilles in a war to end all wars. We have the Russians who beat off Boney attacking Gerry on the eastern flank and they’ve never bin beat and they forced General Prittwitz to run but they lost a million men. Someone has to halt the Huns and today is the day with God’s blessing it will be done. Today, this very day, we’re bombarding Bismarck & Bill the Bosch. There’ll be nowt left o’n ‘em. Later we go over the top to clean them up and this damned war will be over. Then I’ll go back home to my sweetheart and see ma little babe. There’ll be no more wars after this one.
Some madman called Lenin has urged our allied troops to turn their rifles against our officers and start a ‘socialist revolution’, but he’s no leader is he? I know our generals have made mistakes but now they got it right and this nasty trouble will be over by tomorrow. Listen. The bombardment has stopped……There’s the whistle, Over the top to victory!’
Over the top he went on July 1st 1916…and the rest is His Story.
There is a modern context to my PAP as well. War is still used by ‘leaders to attempt to gain ground physically and metaphorically. We shouldn’t ban the bomb, we should banish all wars.
ps if (& when) I get no offers to give a home for my PAP I shall hire somewhere and damn well do it out of my own devices. It’s the least I can do to commemorate the poor sods who were taken in that horrific battle of the royal families and other elites of Europe.
The recent ‘leaders’ who took nations into wars are still prevalent, some (or should I say Somme?) examples; Thatcher & Blair although they pale into insignificance against the Bushes snr & jnr, Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi, Putin, and maybe the worst of all, the man responsible for the mass of the population of his country leaving their destroyed cities to risk crossing oceans in small dinghies Assad. Believe me their moronic majesties’ bequest is still very very real!
This looks like a very moving installation. It gives a small powerful emanation of the hurt which must have been felt on all sides, in many nations.
Haig and the high command really messed up in more ways than one. They had intelligence reports that an area of the front was very vulnerable yet they attacked across the whole front. Ironically the war may have been ended and millions of lives saved if only Haig had been a more competent tactician and used that intelligence (gained from German POWs who told of a weakness in their defences) although it meant the Germans would have purportedly ‘lost’ the war (there could be no victors in that cataclysm!) the gain would have been an end to the carnage. Instead they added to it then added some more in many more such battles until 11.11.1918.
Also someone high up made a fundamental error at 3am that day by phoning a message of good luck for the impending attack. That message was listened in to and the German gunners were alerted across the whole front, with devastating consequences.
Haig and His Highly Incompetents must have seen the disaster unfolding rapidly but instead of calling the attack off continued it until November 18th. Men from all over the world deemed dispensable. Not to mention the many Germans who were massacred in the initial explosion (“A queer dull thud” as one soldier witnessed at the time.) from the mines laid by sappers deep under the German command at Lochnagar. The sappers were taken from those who worked in the pits of Britain, they dug down deep under the German line to lay the biggest store of explosives ever laid. The ‘job’ was fraught with danger as German soldiers were also digging deep.
I think we need to make work about the war to help us understand the futility and the waste – and the fact that we never learn…’A Book artist from Australia
Thanks for your reaction ABafA.
I sent that out to about 100 folks, many quite good friends, since Thursday and do you know! You are th’only one that’s made any comment.(Ignore that I’ve had 4 now. Also my wife and son tell me I shouldn’t expect any reactions at all, ‘people don’t react to things they see in newspapers normally, so why should they react to your blog you old fart?’)
Just before i went to my computer i were tinking about my blog and my gripes about bad leadership and I thought, ‘d’y know, the same stupid stuck up twits are in charge today, and the same right wing thinkers (not, I don’t believe they can be called ‘thinkers’)) are i/c the Press. Nothing has altered’. In fact the 1960s seemed a time of HOPE. Atlee brought in the education act in 1945 which educated me, then I was taught to teach by intelligent humanists who said, let your students find their way to their passion and then take them to the top of the highest mountain and push them, LET THEM FLY. But since then it’s gone backwards and the public schoolboys (Like Gove, Boris, Cameron & Osborne) have a strangled-hold on the Asylum whilst Labour again display disarray and the LibDems are dead in the water, despite being instrumental in stopping the public schoolboys worst intentions whilst they were in coalition. I think I’ll move to Australia, or Canada, or even France, anywhere to escape these clods! Pete
One friend’s reaction flags up a rather rude reaction to brrrExit: Look at these posters with Boris on by Billy Childish, be care full cos he used a word what is naughty. It refers to the sex organ on a pig and is originally from Old English (I think):
Top Views of ma blog for 7 days ending 2016-04-18:
In fact my blArty blog gets viewed from all round the globe. It’s nice to tink that my words & images may be interesting folk from places I never even heard of like Vanuatu, a country in Oceania.
(Vanuatu is a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300 kilometres, Fiji is near it.
Anyway, back to my normal patter.
I recommend a visit to Chris Ruston’s wonderful show of her Ammonite books at the natural History Museum in Colchester. The display is a little dark but that is for reasons of protection against the damage light can do to delicate tissue. I also had difficulty photographing it cos a nice curator woman approached me and said I had to have Chris’s express written permission to do so. Well in fact Chris sent me these great photos which I cannot equal so here they are.
It is so apt for today! Take out the reference to Jews and Hitler and replace them with any of the peoples fleeing dictators and assassins and other groups who take it upon themselves to destroy rather than create and maintain. Auden’s words are totally appropriate for the way the world still treats people in fear of their lives and who have felt it necessary to traverse danger to try to reach a safe haven. Damn it, he could have written it yesterday, or even today!
To finish off I have to rejoice about my new very old cross-cut saw and the way it cuts thru wood. It’s taken some sorting out and I am so grateful to Richard saw-sharpener extraordinaire at Haydons in Braintree who sharpened and set it so that I could make these lovely pieces.
My objective was to be able to cut up a willow tree which fell about 2 years ago and on the way I had to overcome some obstacles not least my weak muscles. I see it as a zen ting. The tree could be cut by chain saw but I insist on using the less noisy old fashioned crosscut saw. I always like to tackle the near impossible. Don’t know why but there it is. It’s an old willow tree which fell over in strong winds and it’s very very stubborn. The saw worked wonderfully on the much denser rootball from which I cut those beautiful shapes but this darned tree is taking hours to cut thru. still, I got nothing else to do, I am retired aren’t I?
See you at the Laurie Anderson gig at Tate Modern this Friday nicht if you can get there. Bless.
All of a sudden my life is beginning to happen. ‘It’s almost as if the stars are tangled in a ghostly spider’s web. The whole network is beginning to glow, to pulse with light, exactly as if it were alive…’ (p. 166, Tom Wolfe in Cool Aid Acid Test).
I spent 65 years ‘trying’ to ‘get there’ and suddenly somehow I arrive! Like Clementine, I’m on tea & croissants. On Friday night last when I turned on the Mercury prize I discovered a man/voice which was as big a revelation to me as hearing Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks on vinyl way back in 1968 on an old Dancette record player exactly like this one.
It was a long hard battle. I wrote, I painted, I did graphics (‘comic’, caricature and stuff) and I drew. I drew cos I could. I actually draw because of the battle I had to fight to acquire the ability to draw. It wasn’t easy cos as a 16 year old I was cack-handed (kakˈhandɪd; ‘clumsy, awkward or inept way of doing something; originally meaning left handed’, in other words I couldn’t draw for toffee but now I’m ambidextrous and am proud of that. Although I perform across a number of media it was the ability to draw which I chased hard until I achieved a certain skill which allowed me to draw the likes of Feliks Topolski, Miriam Patchen and more recently Vest & Page.
When Richard Morphet, the then Keeper of the Modern Collection at Tate, said to me in c. 1994, ‘Your work has a very German feel’, I think he was referring to the new breed from Germany like ‘upside down man’ Baselitz, yes there was a similarity but it stemmed from our all having the same influences in art history. Here’s one of my portraits (of Michael McKell actually) showing the similarity in technique. This is one of the illustrations which are reproduced beautifully in my article in JAB38 but here I am showing it in colour, it needs colour as does much of my oeuvre.
When Brad Freeman gave the go ahead on my article for the Journal of Artists Books (JAB http://www.journalofartistsbooks.org/current/) and I pondered on being asked to feature my own work, mainly in book and print but also in paint, and those who had inspired, directed and influenced it. It soon became apparent that many of them were of German origin. My father and his father’s generation had been embroiled in war with Germany yet I was inspired by so many German artists and writers. Significantly many of my influences had been on the Nazi regime’s list of ‘degenerate art’. The writer, artist and mountain walker Hermann Hesse, significantly, even stood up against the First World War. Anselm Keifer, Dieter Roth and Joseph Beuys all had to cope in their various ways with having been born in Germany and the aftermath stigma of the Third Reich.
my portrait of Anselm Kiefer
Luckily my embroilment has been with the positive creative side of the German spirit. The list is long and the work they did will give insight into my own output, about which the article will further inform you. Beneath German military imperialism lays a deeper current, German humanism as manifested in the work of writers like Hesse, Walser and Klee, each has had a profound effect on my work/output which I shall be linking to the work of the following artists showing how they have had an impact on my thinking:
Expressionists; Shmidt-Rotluf, Franz Marc (Post Card To Prince Jussuf), Kokoshka with his very literature base and liberal brush.
Dada etc; Max ErnstCollage books (La Femme 100 tetes) and his Livres d’artists,
Bauhaus; Klee, Schlemmer
Post war; Anselm Keifer, Dieter Roth and Joseph Beuys
*Kokoshka was born in Austria but was associated with German Expressionism and dada.
Wikipedia says that Kokoschka (who became involved with Performance Art) was a master of ‘innovative oil painting techniques anchored in earlier traditions’ which resonates with my lifelong observation about ‘art’ or rather ‘the creative process’ passing down a (transcendent) chain or down a line/ lineage.
I see my portraits as descendent from the work of Rembrandt or El Greco, then Van Gogh and Soutine yet it never lamely mimics any of them. They set the example but I always looked to move it on. I was born into a generation which experimented with and pushed the barriers, sometimes too far, too quickly. I have always looked over my shoulder or down to see my feet standing on the shoulders of giants. I fought hard with my own inadequacies to overcome my incompetence in various media. I did find my way to doing some oil paintings which had considerable skill. All of the time I heard Max Ernst whispering in my ear that ‘painting is dead’, yet I refused to allow that to happen, I love the push of the wet gooey brush across the dry canvas surface and my attempts to make a difference. I was aware that so many great artists had (before I began) created a great legacy of amazing works which I could hardly hope to match, so I would push off in another direction. To find that direction I would look intensively into the history of ‘art’ and into the practice which was going on around me from the time of my first successful paintings and prints until today.
In the early 1970’s I was lucky to see the work of Soutine, de Kooning, Barnet Newman and Dieter Roth all of whom did what I considered to be ground-breaking work which itself was keeping to the lineage of the greats that went before them. I wanted to create new and original work which proved ever so difficult when the art market only really wanted to have the work of established masters or people who were following in their footsteps. They wouldn’t look at my work because I was not in the canon or established or I didn’t have the right track record or had not been vetted by the right colleges. And who can blame them when so many artists were being produced, choosing who to back and add to the canon must have been difficult. But I carried on making my art regardless, for 48 years now. Now it can be seen that I have created a large oeuvre which has a wide variety of differing styles and ways of working, yet another taboo in the ‘art-world’ where they like it if you concentrate on a small area then you can be boxed up and sold.
I was inspired by Ernst. I saw Roth as an oasis on my starving journey. And later I saw Beuys and Keifer doing things I had done as a result of pursuing my own star only they did them more than I ever could with my limited time and resources.
‘Beuys never made a painting on canvas; he explicitly rejected this traditional artistic production.’ P68 JB-A Colourful World, pubr. Schellmann Art, Munich 2011. Here is a difference because I did do paintings and other things onto canvas, I wouldn’t stop because Beuys did not choose this medium, but I would be able to consider many materials for use in my own work having been given permission so to do by Beuys having used them either before I did or without my knowing that he had and my later finding out he had used materials I had chosen, except before me. What Beuys, Ernst and Roth did was encourage my daring when it came to which materials could be used to make my work with. Had I stuck to the limited media which my educators and many British artists before the sixties had stuck to my output would have been severely limited. Even today many of my pieces are frowned upon by people from all walks of life because many have little idea as to the way art and its use or abuse of materials has moved for better or worse in the past 50 years.
‘I did a lot of work on Vessel page 2 (V2) today but had to make quite a few changes from yesterday’s efforts. I expect to get a printed result tomorrow. It was Braunschweig University that I visited, but they have no link to Beuys. The permanent exhibition of Beuys I mentioned is kept at a fantastic gallery in Berlin, the Hamburger Bahnhof. They have a couple of fabulous Keifer pieces too, but they are not always on display.’
I had been asking him about his visit to Braunschweig and the artists that he’d told me about with a view to me going there one day(?). In 2015 I produced a book about the making of my picture called Venus Stairs which was inspired by Schlemmer’s Bauhaus Staircase. The more I see of Schlemmer’s oeuvre the more I love it, especially the stuff he did related to performance, especially now that I am so involved with Performance Art.
Two weeks ago I recited my Beuys poem at firstsite Gallery in Colchester. The poem pokes fun at Beuys and his ways but it’s also an homage to him. When I spent 2 weeks in the company of Performance Artist Jurgen Fritz I was aware that I am still a novice in the field of Performance Art but Jurgen said encouraging things about my efforts. I have been eating, sleeping & dreaming up Performance Art pieces since then and my next blog will be about the IPA fortnight.
Here’s me reciting my Beuys poem. He had gold on his face, I couldn’t afford gold so I used black.
I was on the roof of next door’s ‘wash-house’ early-1960’s when I heard Freda Lister sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow beautifully, it was the first time I had heard the song. There was a bunch of us kids up there on a warm summer’s day during school hols. One of the group shewed me a paperback book and said they had just read it and it was wonderful. That book The Silver Sword, (probably the first ‘serious’ book I ever read after my staple diet of Enid Blyton’s fairy & goblins and Beanos), was about refugees.
Whilst working as a consultant for NASA James Lovelock developed the Gaia Hypothesis in his book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (Oxford, 1979). [He also claims to have invented the microwave oven.] Having invested a few paragraphs in rehearsing the improbability behind the assembly of sentient self-replicating life from a chemical soup, in turbulent conditions over immense timescales, Lovelock cheerfully resolves it all by concluding, “Life on Earth was thus an almost utterly improbable event with almost infinite opportunities of happening. So it did.” p.14 (Tim Radford Friday 27 August 2010 Guardian Science) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock
Before 2000 I had read various predictions that the biggest problem awaiting the 21st century would be shifting populations, from a number of causations; war being the primary one, famine and epidemics following rapidly in its wake. Now it has come to pass. War is never a solution, maybe sometimes a stopgap, but the issues rage on. Hitler thought that through war he could build a 3rd Reich Empire to rival those of Britain & France of the 19th century. He was proved wrong but at GREAT cost. My parents’ generation was embroiled in the outcomes at the time. Ted Walker, an 18 year old from Burnley who I came to meet in the 1960s, was taken at Dunkirk and effectively enslaved in a Stalag in Poland for the rest of the war then, like the childers in The Silver Sword, eventually left to walk back to Burnley. I have a postcard to prove it. And after that war there were millions of displaced people.
Ted in 1939 before capture at Dunkirk.
So we move to the modern day, nothing has changed, the results of war are refugees, migrants, pilgrims whatever you call people desperate to escape enough to leave familiar territories and jump aboard unseaworthy vessels after paying crooks extortionate sums of money, they are in flight, searching for some safe haven and maybe a better future.
So what do they do, the so called ‘Heads of Europe’. They squabble. They bring up all the age old prejudices. They build walls. They place razor wire on fences.
There have been oases of hope, like Germany allowing in a lot very quickly. Germany knows what it’s like to grow out from the ruins of a war which its leader had lost years before he shot himself and stemmed the advance of troops from all sides.
Syria looks like a country devastated by such a war now. I don’t need to tell you, it’s there in all the news. It seems the Head of State in Syria has no compunction about the people who live in the cities his forces bomb. There are many other forces at work there too, like the head of Russia’s ‘special forces’ is ‘advising’ the government side and has been filmed leading Assad’s forces, (purportedly), the result is that millions flee.
If only countries could use money directed for armament in building new towns in lands of plenty there may be a medium term miracle but my 64 years of living this life doesn’t indicate that’s about to occur. Even if it did there would need to be a big turn-around in the way we humans (ubeings I like to call us) treat one another. All this ‘he’s a muslim, he’s a Brit, he’s a Sunni, he’s a Sikh, he’s the other side’ etc needs to be sifted over. It’s called prejudice I think. It’s so hard for ubeings to let bygones be bygones, to shake hands and make up. So many prefer to reek revenge, an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. Often we get pre-emptive revenge, just in case they attack us we attack first. But violence begets violence. When we feel aggressed upon it seems a natural instinct to re-act against the perceived aggressor, the Dalai Lama and his followers walk away from that idea. In Tai Chi too, albeit a martial art from China (a lot of good does hail from China) the idea which seems so counter-intuitive for a novice like me is that you DON’T react, you go with the flow, you give ground or rather you deflect the incoming assault by using your ‘yin’ (negative/nil) force ‘against’ the ‘yang’ of the attack. So the aggressor has nothing to fight as the one he attacks offers no resistance, ‘…the Taoists call T’ai Hsu the Great Nothing‘ Hoff says in his Tao of Pooh and elsewhere he aptly describes the force of T’ai Hsu as like a cork bobbing on water and if you try to hit it it just bobs more and more as you try harder to make contact, eventually the assailant becomes tired and the cork bobs on down the river of life unscathed.
Take a leaf from the Dalai Lama’s book and promote peace. I know it’s hard to just let it go. Our prejudices rule our actions all too often.
But prejudice takes strange forms. South African leaders refused the Dalai Lama permission to attend a Nobel Peace summit because they don’t want to lose Chinese trades. China had invaded un-prepared Tibet in 1950 http://tibetoffice.org/tibet-info/invasion-after and by 1959 thousands of political refugees, including the Dalai Lama, felt the need to flee Tibet because of Chinese repression of their rights in the name of freedom for the common man from what they saw as feudal repression by an upper class dominated by religious ideas which Mao’s boys didn’t consider of any worth. (Ironically there is a regeneration of the main religions in Modern China and in Mongolia Buddhist ideas have undergone a substantial revival since it got out of the Soviet bloc. http://www.brill.com/change-democratic-mongolia )
The lines of refugees that came over the mountains into India then are comparable to those being seen coming out of Syria and Libya today but the West turned a blind eye. It was heavily involved fighting North Korea with its Chinese ‘advisers’. I have met and been very impressed by a number of Chinese people’s intelligence, yet the masses in China can do little to stop the systematic pillaging of Tibet’s resources and the subjugation of its spiritual ideas.
Apulhed Spirit o’ The Dalai Lama
The Chinese leaders need to re-consider their approach to Tibet, but they won’t because [I believe] they see Tibet as a buffer to any move coming into China from the West. They have destroyed the Tibet monasteries, and continue to harass the indigenous population. Tibet had so many monasteries because they had turned their backs on war and chosen paths of peace, quite an accomplishment as they were of Mongol descent and had once conquered China, China never forgets.
George Osborne, Conservative finance minister is in China today, no doubt he won’t mention Tibet. You’re not allowed to mention Tibet, it’s a bit like John Cleese mentioning the war.
Chinese leaders will make a return visit to Britain in October. I am afraid none of them will hear me urge them to alleviate the repressive conditions imposed on indigenous Tibetans nor request them to allow the Dalai Lama and his people freedom to return and control their own actions in Tibet. He has said they wish for Tibetan autonomy now rather than independence.
Dukar wheel made by Tashi Lunpho monks.
But I am forever grateful to the peace-loving Tibet people whose work I witnessed this week at a gobsmackingly wonder-full show by the Tashi Lunpho monks in London. Since their monastery/university in Tibet was destroyed under Chinese rule the Tashi Lunpho monks have built a new centre in Sikkim, South India. http://www.tashi-lhunpo.org.uk/monastery_15.html
I’d love to go see the Dalai Lama too but can’t afford the 70-90£ asking prices. I tried to blag my way in by telling them I been aksed to write an article for the Tibet Foundation and some up to date photos would be good, but they didn’t listen or they weren’t impressed.
Dalai Lama at his Peace Garden.
The activities of Pete Kennedy, Performance Artist Bloke, Book Creator & retired artist.