Saturday, 26 November 2011

The London Riots: a lamentation

I've been trying to work out the lyrics to this track for a workshop I'm doing next week in Leicester. I'm nearly there but would value your help!

Here Mr Prime Minister, would you mind if I got a couple of minutes of your time?
Why the fuck did you attack our wages when you never done a days work in your life?
And what the fuck d’you know of our business? I can wait till the day that all of you die!
And it’s funny how you keep your distance but send the police to fight the life of crime.
Were you travelling on London transport the day that the bombs went off?
How about you try an’ pay rent to the landlords earning shit money doing a labouring job?
Why we livin’ like shit in this country while you’ve got your feet up livin’ nice and comfy?
Well we got where the problem is, people acknowledge this stand up to the politics!

Chorus from the original track by Muse:
They will not force us,
They will stop degrading us,
They will not control us,
We will be victorious,
So Come on.

They put cameras up ‘cause they’re mad at us and they still wanna blame it on terrorism.
Newspapers talk shit don’t believe anything that you see on the television.
And the thing is that people don’t listen they take away your rights and stick you in prison.
Well I’ll never forgive ‘em, their tax has risen, for fuck sake check […]
Well I say we turn on ‘em now; let’s stick together and stank our ground; go outside and rip cameras down. Let the pricks no that we ain’t fuckin’ around.
Let’s reclaim the United Kingdom ‘cause I don’t wanna be a face in the distance. 
(Fuck it) listen to my words of wisdom ‘cause all they do is feed ‘em with fiction. 

They will not force us…

I wanna get my hands on David Cameron and when I finish with ‘im he won’t have any legs to stand on.
I’ll grab a knife and stick it in the pussy like a tampon.
And if you’re in a packed out tube and there’s never any room to breathe:
Pray to Allah out loud, people will scatter and then there’ll be plenty of seats.
Drive an RPG into all MPs in the houses of parliament.
I’ll make […] proud when I wipe every last single one of ‘em.
Fuck the government, I’ve had enough of ‘em especially now the beer price is doublin’.
Sacrificing the lives of soldiers […] never before.

They will not force us…

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

More Media Mulching of St Paul's Spot Light

Perhaps Rowan Williams is right and the Church takes the vicarious role of having the ethical dilemmas on behalf of wider society. We all are part of the system, one way or another, a system that both traps and treats us.

But Ken Costa is not the Church he is representative of the way the 1% dictate the theology of the Church by bankrolling the notorious Alpha Course - a course which conservative evangelicals use to steam roller their nonsense into people's heads. The Guardian send him up brilliantly here.

Far better to listen to the debate on Radio 4, where the middle classes play out the ethical dilemma for us. I flag this up mainly because Jonathan Bartley is on and he's always got something to say that's worth hearing. So click here to listen to that.

Meanwhile, instead of getting people to play out the debate while we watch perhaps the rest of us should think about our own ethical dilemmas and comforting God-talk. Maybe we need to stop looking at the 14 carat gold speck in Ken Costa's eye and take a look at the plank in our own? Um.... Nah!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The French Government outlaws vegetarianism in schools

I know the French like their meat but really...

A governmental order issued on October 2, 2011 has determined that all meals served in school canteens in France must contain animal products, and that meat and fish will be served at a certain minimum frequency. This implies that by law from now on no vegetarian can eat at any public or private school in France.

Six million schoolchildren are now forced to eat animal flesh, whether they wish to or not. For many families lunch at home is not an option. At best, a vegetarian student will be allowed to leave the meat on the plate, and consequently suffer from inadequate and imbalanced meals.

Following a law voted last year by the French Parliament, similar decrees will be taken shortly regarding almost all forms of catering from kindergarten to hospital, prisons and retirement homes. Vegetarianism will then have effectively been banned for a large part of the population.

These measures ostensibly aim at ensuring the nutritional quality of the meals. Animal flesh is imposed as the only source of good quality protein and iron and dairy products as the only sources of calcium, in disregard of the fact that all these nutrients can be obtained in adequate quantity and quality from plant and mineral sources. The internationally recognized fact that: "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases [and that] well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes" (source: American Dietetic Association) is flatly ignored.

No practical considerations warrant a blanket prohibition of vegetarianism even in those canteens where the management is willing to offer vegetarian or vegan alternatives. These decrees are thus an arbitrary violation of the rights of the vegetarian citizens of France.

The European Vegetarian Union wishes to point out that the decision that many citizens have taken not to eat animals is not a mere dietary whim or a nonconsequential choice of lifestyle, but follows, for many of them, from deeply held beliefs about the way animals should be treated. A democratic government cannot arbitrarily restrict the beliefs of its citizens nor the practice thereof. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is binding on member states including France, holds that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

The public debate regarding animal rights and the moral status of animals is active in France as in many other countries. Citizens are entitled to choose freely where they stand on these issues, and those who believe that they cannot, in conscience, accept to eat animals must not be discriminated against.

A government cannot settle a philosophical, ethical and political debate by restricting the rights of those who disagree with its own positions. For years, the official policy of the French government has been openly hostile to vegetarianism. The French agriculture minister, Bruno Lemaire, declared in January 2010 that the government's aim in determining its public nutritional policy was to defend the French agricultural model and specifically to counter initiatives such as those of Paul McCartney calling for a reduced consumption of meat.

The European Vegetarian Union demands that the recent governmental orders outlawing vegetarianism in school canteens be rescinded and that the French government respect the civil rights of its vegetarian citizens.

Renato Pichler

European Vegetarian Union

See here and here for more information.

For those interested here is the petition. I am never sure these things do anything but I have signed it anyway.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

St Paul's Cathedral hires patronising free-marketeer

The apparent 'U-turn' in policy from St Paul's, headed up by the bishop of London is nothing of the kind. They have brought in retired city-banker and conservative alpha-male Christian Ken Costa to deliver an ethical framework for a free-market economy.

On 28 October 2011, three days before his appointment by St Paul's, Costa wrote in the Financial Times. He called discussions among those camped out 'naive' and their protest 'of little consequence'. He defends the free market as having done nothing more than to have 'drifted' from its moral foundations.

We shouldn't be surprised by this appointment. Bishop Richard (London) has already denied that he wanted violence while refusing to rule out its use so why not claim to take the protesters seriously while simultaneously appointing an adviser who doesn't.

I have a feeling decisions from those with the most unwittingly wed to the ideology of the powerful will continue to lead policy at St Paul's by the nose, into one disastrous decision after another.

Ultimately it is the wedding of Church and State that has made it impossible for the Anglican Church leaders to properly understand the signs of the times and take seriously the hopes of the marginalised. These people were trained to ignore injustice and appointed because they don't rock the boat. These are not the people to come up with any useful solutions. Not now or ever.

Visions of tomorrow: This is what democracy looks like

Those involved in permaculture know that it's on the boundary between environments (e.g. hedge meets the meadow) that the most productive signs of life are found.

So creating boundary places and stepping back is often enough.

The OLSX camp at St Paul's Square is doing just that and those people on the boundaries (established church, activists, bankers) can't help but be drawn into it. It catches them off guard to be drawn into the real world in this way.

But it's not just boundaries. It's bridges as well. Activists over the last couple of decades have been rediscovering the 'internationale' of radical politics. A soldier, in uniform, stood outside St Paul's and declared the soldiers as 'the 99%' being exploited in wars that only benefit the wealthy. What a source of truth!

And the OLSX began as an act of solidarity with the Adbusters call to Occupy Wall Street. UK government policy is often little more than an arm of US foreign policy so the demands of Occupy Wall Street to 'take the money out of politics' as concrete and direct implications for UK political life.

As with all big social changes a combination of unavoidable factors and social pressure create great changes. Slavery was abolished in Britain because of a change in economics as well as social pressure. Women got suffrage because of the Suffragettes but the reality of it became unavoidable when after the war women found they had been skilled up to do paid work and extending women's right became near impossible to avoid.

The US is losing it's super-power status bit by bit. We saw it in the decision by UNESCO to invite in Palestine against US/Israeli wishes. We see it in the economic changes that are taking place around the world. There is no better time to demand global and local change.

Luke Bretherton, writer on Christianity and politics and a participant in London Citizens, offers a wonderful and simple analysis of what is at play in St Paul's Square.

If you've had to face down the irritating "they don't even know what they're protesting about" bollocks that some people are parroting from the mass media then this might be helpful document to turn to for a less than straightforward but an extremely helpful response. 

I don't want to summarise it because it's worth reading in full. So have a look here