Category Archives: politics

The Beginning’s Never As Important

Placate – Word of the Day

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Photo: histclo.com

Neville Chamberlain (1869 – 1940) British Prime Minister 1937 – 1940, whose name is synonymous with appeasement. His first attempt was to keep Britain out of the Spanish Civil War in the hope of winning favour with Italy. His second was an attempt to buy favour with Italy in order to sway them from German influence, by recognising Italian sovereignty over Ethiopa. His third attempt was over three trips to Germany in an attempt to stop Hitler invading the rest of Czechoslovakia, caving in to most of Hitler’s demands. However, at the same time he escalated British military spending, production, and training, while forming alliances and pacts, notably with Poland, so, he wasn’t completely innactive in preparation.

Chamberlain’s main modus operandi was in trying to placate Hitler and Mussolini in order to prevent a major war in Europe. The famous moment was when he gave a speech, while waving the agreement with Hitler to honour the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia, speaking of “Peace with honour” a line he borrowed from Benjamin Disraeli, and “Peace for our time” (which is invariably misquoted as “Peace in our Time”). But history shows that Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement failed miserably, as Winston Churchill had predicted.

 

The Beginning’s Never As Important

I’m not sure where it began,
though you always say that doesn’t matter.
The beginning’s never as important as the end.

But my my mouth threw words like bullets on concrete,
hard, indiscriminate wounds
that imperilled our very being.

I tried to trace the history of the world,
and you retreated to foreign climes.
“I’m out of here if that’s how it is!”

I stared at the floor, my honour defended,
truth the ego’s demand.
While an ocean of tears formed a gulf between us.

The shadows grew long as the clock struck an hour.
Like metal on metal,
my nerves all jangled and churned.

In the embers of light I glimsed your face,
your cheekbones, your eyes, seemed soft.
I sank in your ocean and surrendered myself.

You welcomed me ashore,
embracing a long, lost friend.
And we dressed each other’s wounds.

“I feel so … when you … I do too, I’m sorry I …”
History resolved, the future imperative,
the beginning’s never as important as the end.

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Oppose

Anti – Word of the Day

Anti.jpg

Image: from somewhere on Tumblr.

If I’m anti anything I’m anti hate, but mostly anti ignorance in matters of compassion and human rights.

 

 

Oppose

 

The boat is heavily listing now,
yesterday the water ran out.
Faces of grief pleading for life,
guns hold their gaze.
The pimp in the office will give no ground,
He toadies the line that they’re misfits of vice.

In soil of division suspicion grows well.
it’s their religion you see, much sicker than ours.
Well, actually, we don’t believe, ‘cept the retail gods,
and, oh yes, Our Father who art in parliament.
The pimp in the office cruelling life,
whose litany is “Don’t trust your neighbour.”

A girl faces the impenetrable wall,
her parents are gone.
We shut her out, then shut her in,
she’s dangerous you see, her skin colour’s sin.
The pimp in the office will give no ground,
“We’re the land of the … Me.”

There’s a man on the street encrusted in sorrows,
he trusted once, now content to be free.
He’s not beautiful, but he’s married to soul,
his manger’s a gutter, his blanket Orion.
The pimp in the office will give no ground,
“Misery’s my game, let’s play it on him.”

Sorrow lives in hearts near me,
and faceless captives far away.
But I played a new game, I planted new seeds,
I harvested insight and acted at once.
The pimp in the office is struggling to speak,
I rapiered his words with sharp deeds of love.

©Paul Cannon

 

paul,

pvcann.com

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Ruby Bridges

Integrated – Word of the Day

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It’s 1960, the Kenyan Crisis ended, Kennedy announced his run for the US presidency, the Beatles haven’t yet come to the fore, Adolf Eichman is captured by Israeli agents, ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ is published, a number of former colonial countries become independent, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining ground in the US, the US sends troops to Vietnam, 100,000 people attend “Ban the Bomb” rally in London, D.H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” on sale 32 years after it was banned, Chubby Checker popularises the Twist, Sirimavo Bandaranaike – first female PM (Sri Lanka) Ceylon, folk music moves into protest, and a number of rights movements begin, and with the pill and a number of other birth control methods the sexual revolution gathers momentum. When you read the detail of the time, they were heady days, with dramatic change

And yet … we have the scene above. The beginning of integration for black and white students in American schools.  Ruby Bridges six years old, and who passed the enrolment test, was the first African- American student to be enrolled in the formerly all-white Wiiliam Frantz Elementary School, escorted to and from school by four federal marshals! Incomprehensible, despite the historical data showing how it came to be. Bridges endured running the gauntlet of a hostile white protest every day for twelve months, parents removing their children in protest, grafiti, people yelling slurs and hate. She spent twelve months alone with her teacher, Barbara Henry, and child psychologist Robert Coles. Eventually more African-American students were enrolled and the furore died down. Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) immortalised Bridges bravery in the painting “The Problem We All Have To Live With.”

Bridge’s father lost his job and the family were refused service at their local store. Though neighbours organised another job, and some white people stood with the family, it was a tough year. But everyone involved in the integration praised Ruby for her bravery.

Ruby Bridges became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, the brave child who survived the hostile resistance to integration. I certainly feel inspired by her stance and determination.

If you read her story and watch the archive footage on Youtube, you can see the determination on her face, which tells me she was integrated psychologically. Carl Jung argued that maturity at core was individuation – the ability to separate oneself from others as an identity. Clearly six year old Ruby was able to do that. If only we’d follow suit. How wonderful it would be to lived in a world where skin colour, language, religion/philosophy, culture, nationality, were of no significance, but where the freedom to be yourself, where communities are integrated and psychological maturity are the mark of every person, imagine that!

Gray is not an option, colour is to be celebrated, melanin is no measure intellect, spirituality, ability, or the right to exist, we are people, varied and beautiful, let’s live that.

“No one (man, sic) will ever be whole and dignified and free except in the knnowledge that the people around them (men, him) are whole and free and that the world itself is free of contempt and misuse.”  Wendell Berry

“The world does not need white people to civilize others. The real White People’s Burden is to civilize ourselves.” Robert Jensen

offensive by day
colour is perception and light
darkness cured blindness

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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John Adams

Independence – Word of the Day

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Eurasian Coot, Big Swamp, Bunbury. Alone again, naturally. This one had set a course for herself, away from the others.

The stories of other nations and communities are always interesting to me, how they evolved and what are some of the key historical points that have become the DNA of the nation, and who are some the characters in nation building.

It is July 4th, the celebration for Americans of their independence from Britain. One of the things that always intrigues me, is the story within the story. Eventual political independence came as a result of independent people. One such person was John Adams (1735 – 1826).

Britannica.com describes Adams and his wife Abigail as fiercely independent. Adams was an early advocate for independence. His father had hoped he’s follow in his shoes as a church minister. Adams trained with that in view, but on graduation from Harvard spent three years teaching at a grammar school. He eventually determined to do law, and set up practice in Boston. It was while in Boston that his independence came to public prominence. Eight British soldiers had fired on a crowd in Boston – the Boston Massacre -and were on trial for murder. John Adams decided to defend them. He believed that they had the right to legal representation (and for a fee no doubt), and his view was that the soldiers had been provoked. While it was an unpopular thing to do it showed that Adams was a principled person, and it also showed that Adams was one who could think and act independently.

In 1765 Adams wrote a dissertation against the Stamp Act, He went on to oppose the Townsend Act (import duty). In 1774 he was elected to the delegation to represent Massachusetts at the First Continental Congress. In 1775 he published his “Novanglus” essays arguing that Britain had no right to legislate for the colony. He attended the Second Continental Congress in 1776, and was nicknamed “The Atlas of independence” surely an irony? He dominated debate and made crucial nominations – George Washington as comander of the Continental Army; and Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. His list of achievements is long, and include a term as ambassador in both France and England, two terms as Vice President, and one term as President. While his political philosophy is much debated and some of his views unpopular, Adams has been hailed as a patriot and revolutionary who spurred a colony to nationhood.

No matter what you think of him, you can’t deny that he was indeed and independent thinker and activist who worked for the nation’s own independence. Perhaps in that light we might say that America’s independence is an outworking of the independent-mindedness of its founders, especially John Adams. I note though, that Adams was not a one-man-band, he ably delegated, deffered, and encouraged others to do their bit, not wanting to hog the limelight, but rather to share it. Independence doesn’t mean solo, or maverick, though it doesn’t exclude those labels those labels are not the principal defining behaviours, it means appropriate dependence and independence in synergy. A bit like co-dependency is not all bad, we all have a positive level of dependence and co-dependece in our lives, if we didn’t we’d have sterile relationships and bland communities and not a lot would get done. We also need a positive level of independence in our lives too, without it we are not an identity, just a name, alone. I like to think I have a bit of John Adams in me, an independent thinker and activist, but also one who can function in and for community. I hope you do to.

many fine new branches
a multitude of blossom
the trunk is solid

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Possessed by Desmothenes

Vehemently – Word of the Day

th.jpeg Desmothenes (385 – 322 BC) the man who rallied Athens as the forces of Philip ll of Macedon approached the city state.

Desmothenes was a lawyer and an orator, and clearly a persuasive one. The people of Athens had become indifferent to Philip’s ambitions to conquer the city states and control the whole region. They scoffed that they would be disadvantaged by Philip’s rule. The city would not marshal its army, they preferred to enjoy life instead. Desmothenes could see the problem clearly, could see Athens was doomed if nothing was done and done quickly. Desmothenes also knew enough about Philip to know that he was a tyrant and would not respect their democracy nor their Athenian culture.

What did Desmothenes do? He gave a vehement and rousing speech that rallied Athens to mobilise and defend itself. It was no rhetorical speech, it was a passionate call to arms for the sake all Athenians. Desmothenes believed in democracy and the rights of city states. He was able to point out that all this would be lost under Philip. Well, he achieved his aim, his speech won the day and the defence of the city, the cry went up “To arms, to arms.”

Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons in 1940 “We shall go on to the end … We shall never surrender.”  Churchill’s speech is passionate and rousing, he is credited with drawing the nation into action after a period of apathy and fear. Churchill’s speech is often compared to that of Desmothenes. William Wilberforce speaking in the House of Commons in 1789, was vehemently opposed to slavery, and battled passionately to have a Bill passed to end it. It took nearly twenty years but he finally achieved that goal.

Tyrants are not always easy to read or detect. Some come as the very saviour, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Franco, Mussolini, Pinochet. Some present as good leaders, Peron, Nixon, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, Bush Jnr., Putin. But all have been tyrants in their own way, disregarding democracy, human rights, and sovereignty. Sometimes the wolf is circling the camp and we cannot see it, and because we cannot see it we deny its existence. What exposes the wolf more is the lack of argument for a credible enemy or crisis (so usually they invent one, much as Putin is busy inventing reasons to remain illegally in Ukraine, and Trump militating to rile Iran). We need to be a little demosthenic, as the term goes, to be like Desmothenes and vehemently oppose such tyrants whether their tyranny is armed force, legislative force, or propaganda (or all of these) and to draw attention to enemy at our gates.

But to return to my favourite theme, the person, each of us needs to step up and deal with self first. It’s no good railing at politicians if we live as tyrants ourselves, hypocisy is corrosive in any society. If we do make like Desmothenes, as with Churchill, Wilberforce, or a Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, we may effect change for the good. Desmothenes singlehandedly turned a city state, imagine what four, five, or twenty Desmothenes could achieve with passion. There are plenty of things requiring our desmothenic attention, the environment, human rights, refugees, corruption, militarism, greed … but with vehemence, with passion, we can do just that.

Canned Heat: “Let’s Work together” 1970, not just another love song!

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Fake News

Hoax – Word of the Day

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From the dawn of time to the Lock Ness Monster, to Joseph Goebbels, Lavrentiy Beria, the Vietnam lie, the Watergate Seven, to Weapons of Mass Destruction, to the constancy of daily lies pedalled across the world by politicians, media, businesses, rogue scientists, fundamentalist religious types (remember Jim Jones, David Koresh, Pat Robertson), or the hoax about a hoax – the radio show of Orson Wells which featured his War of the Worlds alien invasion, and which was said to have created mass panic and evacuation of New York, now proven to be an invention created from a handful of hysterical phone calls and an attack on a civic facility thought to be an alien fortress. It certainly helped Wells and the radio station maintain popularity and gain sponsors.

Hoaxes, scams, fake news have all been around since Adam (a story which includes a scam). Generally they fall into two categories, harmful (weapons of mass destruction), and harmless (Loch Ness Monster). They are all fabrications, lies. It is difficult now to believe anything that is reported in mainstream news, at least until it has been checked. But then, people can be fake in their relationships, pretending to be someone or something.

Black Lives Matter, #Me Too, are also testimony to how fake news, lies, fabrications distort race, gender, and destroy individuals and relationships. In Australia the plight of indigenous children removed from families, based on cultural arrogance and self serving mythology, and the devastating findings of the Royal Commission into Child Abuse has shown how fake reputations, scams and lies enabled vulnerable children to be broken.

Yet, I remain optimistic. In my daily journey I meet many, many people who restore my belief that most people value each other at some level, that the human endeavour is still somehow linked to the golden rule (treat others as you would want to be treated), no matter how we might feel that that is tenuous, the anecdotal evidence is strong. Importantly, I remind myself that there, as the old saying goes, but for the grace of God there go I! Who am I? No one is perfect, and so we need to gentle with each other.

Lies will continue, there will be hoaxes, scams, fake news and distortions. Our response surely must be to discern the truth, but also to hold each other in the space of love, trust, healing, and above all, to listen. The power of listening can be healing in itself, and in the long term the way to truth. To listen to the vulnerable (and who is not vulnerable in some way?), the broken (and who is not broken in some way?), to listen to each other generously and deeply. That way myths come undone, lies are made plain, pain is held, anxiety understood, vanity deconstructed, fear disarmed … in the end, in a world where fake news and distrust could overpower us, we have each other, not bury our heads in activity, but to value each other, build trust, support, resilience, that will enable us to face the world together. Together we can rise above fake.

”No one can lie, no one can hide anything, when s/he looks directly into someone’s eyes.” Paul Coelho

”A lie cannot live.” Martin Luther King Jnr.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Nefarious Activists?

Nefarious – Word of the Day

 

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Image: techviral.net

Black, grey white hats – hacking of course!

White Hat hackers are ethical hackers, they simply use hacking techniques to test software and security systems. The Grey Hat hacker is not malicious, but occasionally violates ethical principles and laws. Black Hats are the bad guys, they are nefarious, according to law enforcement agencies and commercial interests, they infiltrate systems, wipe, steal and disrupt. Or do they?

As often happens with any fear of wrong doing or alleged crime, truth is often the first casualty. Black Hats are simply lumped in together. So consider Gary McKinnon, formerly known as Solo, who hacked ino 97 US military and NASA systems between 2001 and 2002, altering and removing data. Mckinnon claimed he was looking for information about UFOs, extraterrestials, and chemical suppression processes. Extradition to the US from Britain was attempted but in the end refused. McKinnon remained free, and in the ensuing investigations, it transpired that the sensational claims made against him were inaccurate. But then we had Kevin Poulson who committed fraud and theft using hacking skills, he was caught and sent to prison, but now works at The Daily Beast and has been an editor at  Wired.

So, two different motives appear, one to find information that is being hidden from the public, the other to do the equivalent of the old bank robbery. Both are considered to be crimes, however, in my mind, McKinnon was not seeking gain, whereas Poulson’s sought financial gain through theft. I have some sympathy for Mckinnon, and none for Poulson.

Anonymous is a loose collective of what are referred to as hacktivists, they are  amorphous and ever changing, and they have specialised in cyber attack, especially in matters of justice and claims to avenge corruption and injustice. It is typified by the headless man symbol – meaning there is no central leader or leadership, and in public the use of the Zorro mask is now synonymous. Many have referred to the group as a cyber Robin Hood. Their main purpose has been to temporarily shut down websites and services as a form of protest. anonymous has exposed pedophile groups, sweat shops, cheating spouses, racial profiling, racist political groups, corrupt politicians and more. They led cyber attacks on Scientology, Westboro Baptist Church, and commercial interests who have been show to behave unjustly. They have been supporters of Wikileaks, Occupy and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Wikileaks is a group that operates a website and who post hacked or leaked material, mainly suppressed material from around the globe, it has also set up a research wing looking at the material it posts. It was founded by Julian Assange, who has been the subject of an extradition battle by the US. Although it has had a controversial history thus far, and some alleged nefarious dealings with Russian interests, Wikileaks has also exposed commercial and government lies, duplicity, and deception around the globe. Wikileaks has exposed nuclear dsiasters, environmental abuses,government corruption, military attacks on civilians, plots and threats, and police corruption. Basically taking up the role of an independent watchdog.

These groups are indeed nefarious, but the one’s I really don’t like are those that are just common thieves. The rest, while motives are mixed, and methods questionable, at least they have sought a way to make governments and commercial interests accountable. in my view it is laughable when western government agencies protest about the crimes of hacktivists and in particular the shady methods they use, I see that as the kettle calling the pot black. So it all depends on where you are standing as to how you might see this issue, but I for one see a glimmer of good in the work of Anonymous and Wikileaks. Governments become arrogant, and as has been shown by hacktivists, they lie to the people, even to themselves, and that means power has been corrupted.

The US and its allies speak of hacktivists as terrorists. I beg to differ, it’s a little childish to exaggerate the issue. Besides, in my view these people have done exactly what Mark Felt, Daniel Elsberg and others before them have done, but in a global and accessible way using the internet. In that sense, hacktivists are whistleblowing. We may not like their methods or their attitude, but just look at some of the results.

For me, the work of the hacktivists is more about getting to the truth and preserving freedom of speech. While truth is relative, freedom of speech is sacrosanct and should be defended no matter what. How did keeping the Iran nuclear leak in 2009 suppressed protect national security? It didn’t. Freedom of speech is far more important than someone’s opinion that government should be protected at all costs.

Some related quotes I like:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”  Harry Truman speaking to Congress August 8, 1950.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell

Speak your truth!

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Elegant Humanitarian

Elegant – Word of the Day

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Audrey Hepburn (1929 – 1993), a personification of elegance. Certainly petite, refined, beautiful, and yes, elegant. But no matter who or what, we place that descriptor upon people or objects, it is our perception of them, not as they see themselves or how they experience themselves. We know that to be true because at times we are sometimes aware that we don’t see ourselves as others see us. Having said that, I’m happy to say that I think she’s elegant. I really enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but have seen most of her movies over the years. One of the contributing factors to her elegance was her stance, dress and movement – as a child she had learned ballet, and this was clearly formative.

She was ten when WW2 broke out. Her English/Austrian father was involved in the 1930s with the Dutch and British Fascist movements. Ironically hepburn and her mother were involved in fund raising for the Dutch Resistance, though by the time the Germans had invaded Holland, her father had left the family for England then on to Ireland. The war left an indelible imprint on her, she recounted the horror as a child of the invasion, the fighting, the death of family (an uncle was executed as a reprisal), seeing Jewish people being transported, especially children her age, firing squads and more. The food shortages were severe at the end of the war and Hepburn suffered acute anemia, repiratory problems, and edema which resulted from malnutrition.

Hepburn had a long association with UNICEF, having been one of the recipients of international aid in areas devastated by the war. Her formal association began in the 1950s when she narrated two radio programs for them. In 1989 she was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF. She served in that role until 1992, travelling to Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Sudan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Somalia, to promote aid programs and listen to needs on the ground. She advocated for clean water and vaccination programs in particular, lobbying the UN and national governments.

During the Bangladesh visit she was observed hugging children who were covered in flies, she had no aversion, only compassion.

Two of my favourite Hepburn quotes are:

“Taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicisation of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanisation of politics.”

“The ‘Third World’ is a term I don’t like very much, because we’re all one world. I want people to know that the largest part of humanity is suffering.”

I think her true elegance was in her humanitarian work, that she loved the unloveable, wasn’t afraid to get dirty, was passionate in her advocacy and lobbying. She brought a gravitas, dignity and integrity to the role. Which brings me back to the comment I made earlier, elegance in looks is about perception and description, but elegance in behaviour is something more, it is that inner beauty we speak of, embodied, tangible, and lived, it is real. Hepburn lived her humanitarian work. Hepburn once quipped that ordinary working women could achieve her fashion look easily (and told them how). I think everyday people can achieve her lived elegance in compassion.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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One of the Great Negotiators

Negotiate – Word of the Day

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Dag Hammarskjold (1905 – 1961) a Swedish Diplomat, economist and from 1953 – 1961 he was the UN Secretary General. He was also a deeply spiritual person, a contemplative who loved the medieval mystics. His book ‘Markings’ a journal of his spiritual struggles was posthumously published with a foreword by his friend, the poet W.H. Auden. He called his diary – negotiations with himself and with God.

Hammarskjold was propopsed by the British Foreign Secertary Anthony Eden who was impressed with Hammarskjold’s work in diplomacy and economics. The vote was almost unanimous in the Security Council and Hammarskjold was announced as the next Secretary General. The American and Soviet delegates thought Hammarskjold was harmless. He was reelected in 1957.

Hammarskjold was unaware of the nomination, and in fact thought the media report was a joke, and because it was announced on April 1st, he quipped that it was a bad April Fools joke. But it was indeed true.

Hammarskjold believed that relationships were important and that example was one of the best forms of leadership. He tried to meet as many employees at the UN as possible, he ate regularly in the staff cafe, he refused to use his private lift and opened it for general use, he established the meditation room (which he helped to design) which was to be for withdrawal and reflection, a place for silence, and a multi-faith space. He prevented FBI intervention at the UN that his predecessor had allowed at the height of McCarthyism. And he brought order and regulatory process to an organisation in crisis.

He was an able negotiator. He made some impact on relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955 he successfully negotiated the release of eleven US airmen who were prisoners from the Korean War. In 1956 he played a major role in ending the Suez Crisis, There are many other negotiations that he was involved in, and which demonstrate his capacity to work hard and achieve a positive outcome. Not everything was plain sailing though, the Congo was unresolved, interrupted by his death, and the Soviet interference and then occupation of Hungary was frustrating for Hammaskjold as there was little he could do to bring a resolution forward.

His role in the Congo Crisis was cut short by his death as the result of a plane crash travelling to Congo. There are those who still believe that Congolese rebels associated with mining interests were responsible for the plane crash, but no substantive proofs have come to light, including a UN 2015 investigation into the matter. Hammarskjold made four visits to the Congo. It was, as history has shown, a tangled web of politics and power plays. The USSR and the Americans had their own people on the ground and were manipulating much of the power play. The Congo had become factionalised on independence, and the popularly elected Prime-minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered. It was utter chaos.

J.F. Kennedy said of Hammarskjold: “I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.” Kennedy was reflecting on Hammarskjold’s death and on his own resistance to Hammarskjold’s policy in the Congo.

Extreme left and right views are critical of Hammarskjold, and in the main these revolve around the immpossible situation in Hungary, and the seemingly intractable problem in the Congo. But for me they are the proof, by comparison, of the majority of successes he was part of and integral to. His record stands as testimony to his great ability to network, form key relationships, to maintain a consistent approach, and to believe the best in people. His commitment was to keeping peace and finding better ways for nations to negotiate their differences. He formed the UN Emergency Response Group, and initiated the first Peace Keeping force. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

His strength came from his contemplative stance, especially meditation, and his sheer passion for peace in the world. His personal belief was that selfless service to humanity was crucial. Whatever you may think of him, he was one of the great negotiators of the 20th century.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Retrospective On Liberty

Retrospective

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Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)  “Liberty Leading The People” and my favourite Delacroix painting.

The louvre will host a retrospective of his most famous and also his scandalous works in July this year. It is billed as a once in a generation tribute to Delacroix, consisting of 180 works. Alexandre Dumas wrote that: “The genius of Delacxroix is not debatable, it is not demonstrable, it is something one feels.” Delacroix was acknowledged in his lifetime as the leading painter of the Romantic school, but not one who was idealistic, instead he was noted as being passionate about passion. Clearly his paintings are from the heart.

This painting is significant in France because it depicts the the 1830 revolution against Charles X. Liberty leads the people under the Tricolour – liberty, equality, and fraternity, over the dead bodies of struggle. Liberty is a type, a depiction of liberty goddesses. Liberty became a symbol of France and the Republic known as Marianne. Liberty has a long history and was early represented by the Roman goddess Libertas. Ever since there have been various representations, none so grand as the gift of France to the US which we all know as the Statue of Liberty. Latvia has the Freedom Monument in Riga, which is quite impressive to view.

The most poignant for me was the short lived Goddess of Democracy errected by the Democracy Movement during the protest in Tiananmen Square, the hastily constructed statue re-ignited the focus of the waning passion of the movement, only to be crushed by the Peoples Liberation Army (an oxy moron if ever there was one), as the protesters were dispersed, the statue was destroyed, but working from footage of the protest replicas appeared in – Hong Kong, Taiwan, Canada, and several in the US.

The statues, the painting, show how symbols can work to unite, galvanise, enthuse and encourage peopel to a cause. Delacroix shows how the principle of liberty is noble while the destruction of the Goddess of Democracy shows how little liberty is valued by those who hold power. This of course, was the irony of the first French Republic which degenerated into infighting, murder, and the macabre spectacle of the overworked guilotine. True liberty is hard won, and even harder to keep.

What I like most about the painting is the sense that liberty, equality and fraternity are important, and history shows we are drawn to these values to the point that we will gather and fight for them even if we have little chance of winning. The Goddess of Liberty, in whichever form she appears, is a torch, a beacon of hope to rally around. But I don’t see one at the moment! Perhaps this time around we won’t have a singular unifying symbol, but rather, many symbols.

In a more personal sense it raises the question as to what matters most in our lives. In daily practical application will I practice these values on public transport and in public spaces, at home, and in my work? Will I speak justice into the public space? Will I hold more than just my liberty as precious? Will I stand with others? If the WordPress community is any example, then my hope is well founded that I/we can hold and live those values.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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