Category Archives: politics

Courage Under Fire

via Daily Prompt: Courage

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Photo: UK Department for International Development.

There are many stories of courage throughout history. Wartime in particular seems to courageous people to the fore. Those who fought in the resistance groups during WW2, and individuals like Maximilian Kolbe https://pvcann.com/2017/10/18/brave/ , Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nancy Wake, John Rabe, Oscar Schindler, and many, many more.

But more recently I have been moved by the courage of the young woman in the photo, Malala Yousafzai.

Most of you will know the story. Malala, born in Mingora in the Swat Valley in Pakistan in 1997, she became an advocate and an activist for womens education rights. She was inspired by her father’s humanitarian work, and Benazir Bhutto, as role models. She came up against the Taliban who were active in the Swat Valley, and who were banning girls from schools. She began writing a blog for teh BBC under a pseudonym and spoke out about her life under the Taliban. She came to prominence in the international media nad was interviewed by New York Times journalist Adam Ellick. And then Desmond Tutu nominated Malala for teh International Children’s Peace Prize.

Her prominence earned the anger of the Taliban who attempted to murder her. And she was shot on October 9, 2012 (yes it was that long ago) and survived, and with hopsital support in both Pakistan then England she made a full recovery. While being shot is never good, it did gain her international fame, which she immediately channelled into her activism for girls education in Pakistan. She set up a web site, continued to write and speak publicly, toured the world, did a TED talk (which is well worth taking the time to view), and set up a foundation called the Malala Fund where most of her award money is then distributed to education casuses across the world. she has shown a generosity in time, compassion and funding.

She has won over fifty international awards for her work for children’s education rights. And in October 2014 Malala was a joint recipient (with Kailash Satyarthi) of the Nobel Peace Prize (sad note here is that Malala is only the sixteenth female recipient, there are ninety male recipients).

She was courageous the moment she determined she wanted to persist in being educated, claiming that the terrorists did not want women to be educated because that would give them power. The moment she started to advocate and became a public activist in her own province and then started a blog, she was courageous, and on a collision course with the Taliban. And her fate was sealed when she gained international fame, and the Taliban decied to be rid of her. But she survived, and Malala continues to be courageous in her activism for the education of children, especially girls. She is doubly courageous, facing down the Taliban, but also the culture of patriarchy across the world that is still resistant to the rights of women, not least of all in education, in many parts of the world today (strange how far we haven’t come).

We need more Malalas, more courageous people to stand and turn the tide of injustice, but as she shows, it is simply sticking to what you beleive and setting out and doing it come what may (even the Taliban). One of Malala’s inspirations is Benazir Bhutto, mine is Malala.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under community, education, history, life, politics, self-development

Suspicious?

via Daily Prompt: Suspicious

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One of Orwell’s famous lines in ‘1984’ “Big Brother is watching you” is the classic ‘art imitating life’ become life itself in a macabre twist.

Fear rules, and in several of our recent federal advertising campaigns, citizens were urged to report anything suspicious to the authorities. All aimed at refugee and imigrant groups, well let’s be honest, Muslims, and their behaviour, because you never know when they might try to enact a terrorist attack. Which reminds me – out of the eight supposedly terrorist incidents reported here in the media, three were found to have substance, and two tragically lead to death (notably, mental ilness was the significant factor and not religion or politics, and certainly not “terrorism”).

Minimizing crime and destruction is a good thing, but there will always be places where you can’t get a clear CCTV picture, or where the dots in an investigation can’t be joined. We have beome focussed on eradicating threat, and in essence we are really trying to nulify death itself, we are pop-insurance junkies. Yes, prevention is a positive ideal, but it isn’t a guarantee or a cure all.

My concern is that we are losing our focus. Feeding suspicion is divisive and destructive in its own way. We need to check our suspicion, what is the driving fear, the motive? Who is driving it? Who stands to gain?

Instead we need to build trust not division. Besides, a trusting community will be stronger than a suspicious community; it will develop an oppenness, a trust, respect and strong bonds, compassion and cooperation, and it will develop resiliance, so that when tragedy does occur, there is a strength to face it together, and not in fear.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Everything Is Permitted?

via Daily Prompt: Permit

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A quote is a quote is a quote, or maybe not. Vladimir Bartol included the words “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” in his well known novel Alamut. Many would know this to be central to the video game series Assassin’s Creed” and the creators borrowed this phrase from Bartol.

William Burrows borrowed it from Bartol and included it in his novel “Naked Lunch.” Batol’s phrase echoes Dostoevsky’s phrase in his earlier novel “The Brothers Karamazov” where the character Ivan Karamazov states: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” And this in turn is an echo of St. Paul’s theological reflection in his first letter to the people in the church in Corinth where he says: “You have the right to do anything, you say, but not everything is beneficial.”

For St. Paul and Dostoevsky the question is – do we need God/a god for ethical living? Which the two resolve in the affirmative. For Bartol (who sets his novel in 11th century Persia, and is a thinly veiled criticism of fascism and Mussolini), it is a statement that there is no ultimate truth (and perhaps, albeit, no god). Burrows follows a similar line in Naked Lunch in which totaltitarian forces are jostling for control. It is a disjointed book, presenting a disjointed world in which ethics is a moot point, and nothing can be trusted.

For me the question resolves easily. Nothing is true is unsustainable, it fails in that some things can be true (laws of nature, physics, law of gravity etc.). It is true for me at the level that there is no political utopia. There is no ultimate truth, because life is experienced as relational not as principle, so truth is variously understood through experience. God may be a question more than an ultimate truth for many, but as Dostoevsky makes clear, for some God/a god is one way of creating an ethical community.

For me St. Paul nails it by saying everything is permitted, but not everything is beneficial. This is the personal side of it, the ethical relational issue up front. The self must be considerd in the context of ethically living in community, where there are responsibilities as well as rights. In short it can be summed up as the non-harming principle, or as loving your neighbour.

So, nothing is true, but my neighbour is true, so not everything is permitted, or, not everything is beneficial. My neighbour, sister, brother, all living things, are true, and I must account for my behaviour towards them. Not everything is beneficial, but love is beneficial for all.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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You Can’t Say That!

via Daily Prompt: Stifle

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Photo: huffingtonpost.com

I wonder that we’ve ever really had true free speech. George Orwell’s experience in Spain (1936) was such that he portrayed both left and right as having stifled free speech in his novel, Animal Farm. Every form of totalitarian government has stifled free speech, but in recent times even liberal democracies have resorted to enacting laws that limit free speech.

In an interview in 2012 (The Telelgraph, October 18, 2012), Rowan Atkinson (aka Blackadder, Mr. Bean) tilted at the law in England – The Public Order Act. Atkinson criticised the “Creeping culture of censoriousness” and went on to point out that we have entered a time when it has become dangerous to protest. In other words we are losing our basic rights to speak out. He was not speaking in favour (as some tend to confuse free speech with the right to vilify and slander) of the right to say anything, especialy hate speech, but that we have gone too far, curtailing even basic free speech.

Atkinson claims that in trying to outlaw insult, because insult is difficult to define, we end up prosecuting one the basis of insult, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, or even stating an alternative view to the status quo (the subversive, Orwell speaks directly to this in his novel 1984). In reality, in stifling free speech we end up with repression.

Many have paid for speaking out, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who criticised Joseph Stalin, was sent to labour camps by Stalin. Umberto Eco wrote in the ‘Name of the Rose’ (later a movie starring Sean Connery) how the Vatican maintained a list of books to be destroyed, how the church didn’t like criticism of the institution. The leaders of the French Revolution brutally repressed criticism. Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Castro, Pinochet, Mao, Idi Armin, Robert Mugabe, all loathed and tried to regulate criticism. In recent times Donald Trump has complained about free speech (which is ironic). Kim Jong-un carries on a tradition of repressing poitical criticism in North korea.

The English philosopher John Stuart Mill commented (‘On Liberty’ 1859, Penguin, pp 83 -84)  that we should not employ censorship because this would prevent people from making up their own minds (horror of horrors). Interesting thought, Mill clearly wasn’t frightened of public free speech, and he believed free speech wouldn’t cause the collapse of society nor descend to harm or hate. But there are worrying signs that liberal democracies are moving towards control of free speech by creating laws where criticism of government becomes an offence!

No one likes criticism, but surely that is no reason to be petulant and defensive and hide behind laws? Sometimes we need to push back, sometimes others need to push back against us. Criticism can sharpen us,  it can energise us, help us to refine our view, and help us to grow. Let’s not fear each other, but instead let’s embrace the idea that society, and in particular, people’s views, are not homogenous, and we won’t all agree, and we won’t like all that we hear and read about ourselves. Instead, let’s embrace the difference, let’s hold to the value of free speech.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Trill of my Life – Or, how science fiction saves the world.

via Daily Prompt: Trill

 

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Trilling? Well not quite, Nicole De Boer as Ezri Dax a Trill, as seen on Star Trek. And no I’m not a true Trekkie, but I did enjoy the show. In general I enjoy science fiction, it is another world, and yet it isn’t. All fiction is, in some way, related to real life, where it differs is that fiction can abstract, take licence, and allow fantasy. Fiction can be quite potent in confronting social justice issues. Take any of HG Wells’ works, Orwell’s 1984. Look at District 9, a movie that speaks to racism; Ursula LeGuin’s (who, sadly, died this week) The Dispossessed, a book about racial inequality; or Samuel Delaney’s Neveryon, a series about power, race, sexuality and aids, or Octavia’s Brood an edited collection by writers inspired by Octavia Butler, essays that speak to injustice and inequality. Star Trek was doing it very early with racial creations that confronted our constructs of race, it addressed class, wealth, inequality, power, race and sexuality.

Science fiction enables us to question our values, especially our inherited values, while enjoying being entertained, we are encouraged to look at difference, and to question power relationships, and to seek justice, in some cases restorative justice.

A basic musical Trill consists of a rapid alternation between two notes. A Star Trek Trill was a humanoid native to the planet Trill and who were inhabited by a symbiont, thus two lives in one body alternating. Science fiction enables us to trill inwardly, to look at different sides of an issue – of what might appear to be singular, but is in fact complex. Perhaps to trill is to possess a 20/20 vision in emotional intelligence?

Paul,

pvcann.com

10 Comments

Filed under community, nature, politics, Science, Space, Spirituality

Privilege

Privilege used to have a general meaning, that you had achieved a right by education, promotion, or sheer hard work. There was a clear pathway, others could see how you got there, and it generally revolved around integrity. But privilege was also connected to a process through community of some description. To be a leader meant that others knew you, knew you had integrity, knew you were for real. In education, especially tertiary, one must be constantly in dialogue and in research and writing, peer reviewed, and of those who worked hard it was that they had rubbed shoulders with many and got their hands dirty in the area or topic they were passionate about.

I’m not American, but I’m concerned that America has descended to privilege those not entitled to be. Take the case of the current president of the U.S. Donald Trump, a business celebrity who appears to be incapable of being a state-like leader. Of course there are a number of theories as to how he got elected:

  • Tough talk in a time of weak talk.
  • Promises to the disappearing middle-class.
  • Playing the race fear card.
  • Tough talk on defence.
  • Rhetoric: Make America Great Again
  • Crass talk: playing up the larikin male.
  • Religious manipulation: playing up to conservative Christians.
  • Not being Hilary: the backlash on privilege factor.
  • Voter participation was low.

And they’re just a few. I think tick all would apply. It says to me that, irrespective of who he is, Trump didn’t get there by hard work, education, or promotion. In my view, he has no integrity because he is clearly manipulative rather than consistent or open. Part of his getting there was his public persona, so he has traded on his celebrity status (if you’re thinking about Ronald Reagan, no matter your view of him, at least he got involved in state politics and worked at it).

Then comes the #Me Too campaign, an important step forward for victims of sexual abuse (and shameful for leaders, entertainers and others privileged by power). And up pops Oprah Winfrey. Now I quite like some of her interviews and some of her book recommendations, however, I really wonder if her Golden Globe moment (and I loved her speech) wasn’t with a view to self privilege, I have questioned if this was a deleiberate act (and maybe it was selfless). And I wonder that those Democrats who decried the nomination of Trump as shallow because he was a celebrity, are now being hyocritical by suggesting the nomination of Oprah to run for president.

My own view is that both Trump and Oprah are being privileged by status, power and money, neither are really political nor really connected to the real process of legislative leadership.

And it is my view that Trump and Oprah are constructs in the public mind, they are who the public want (need?) them to be, when more than likely, they are not anything like that nor capable of being like that (who is?). In the hands of poltical parties they are a product that can be marketed and thus consumed. My fave actor is Juliette Binoche, but while I love her work and some of her opinions, I wouldn’t want her to be president or prime minister simply based on my fascination for her as an actor. Same goes for the really wealthy, for example; Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. It leaves me thinking that celebrity is privileged not just by status and wealth, but also by liminance – that they evoke in us a warmth, a fondness, a feeling not unlike falling in love.

Privileging a leader is also about gain, those who privilege want to be privileged, a never ending sychophantic cycle.

So where is the integrity in leadership? And who will speak for those not privileged (including our friends – nature)? Who will set aside privilege in order to lead?

Paul,

pvcann.com

21 Comments

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My Allergies

via Daily Prompt: Allergic

I have an allergic reaction to Penecillin, and peanuts aren’t my true friend either. But I have more serious allergies than those.

 

I'm allergic to:
All negative isms
Environmental destruction
The appalling treatment of refugees 
Non-defensive violence
Sexual assault
Child abuse
Animal abuse
Domestic violence
Hatred
Homophobia
Racism
Religious intolerance/fundamentalism
Fascism
Elitism
Decisions without consultation
Most politicians who are party bound
Nationalism
Patriotism
Greed
Anachronism
"The Good Old Days"
And in general - stupidity (as I define it, of course).

Because I have these allergies, I’d ask you to leave these at the door when you visit. 🙂

Paul,

pvcann.com

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