Archive for August, 2005

I recognise that those without any great interest in photography may find the next entry somewhat dour but for those that do enjoy making a personal pictorial record of life’s rich tapestry perhaps it will strike a chord. It is borne out by my finding recently that Tesco’s are selling 5x 24exp ISO400 film for £2.50. That’s like 50p a film, it’s all getting a bit ludicrous. When you think that they are offering processing to 7×5 prints for under £4 it got me to thinking about the old days when I first got interested in photos.

Not that I’m complaining of course, in those days buying a 36exp film meant you were going somewhere special because it would take some weeks’ pocket money to pay to get it developed and conceivably a fair bit of time to actually take all the pictures anyway. I had many films with half a holiday and some random event 3 months later. I am still a fan of 35mm SLR cameras because altho’ the camera I used the most was my precious Minolta Dim 7i (now replaced by the Minolta Dim A2) I rarely get around to printing that many off.

I remember when I started, I am old enough that my first camera was one of those classic Kodak Instantmatic jobs, almost a family heirloom it had been my mother’s before me. Double cartridge-like film, point and shoot, just press the button and wind. Looking back at the results now the lens quality was hardly scintillating but then of course in those days you had to spend a very serious amount of money to get anything else. I used to be one of those kids always with a camera taking pictures of odd stuff, I was always obsessed with natural phenomena like a particular shaft of light or sunset

My first proper camera wasn’t until a lot later, I had a couple of 35mm compact cameras which did the job you’d expect but for me the purchase of an SLR at 23 was a big thing for me. I was working in Blackheath where there was a small camera shop, in the shop was a Zenit 12XP a wonderful hefty piece of Soviet optical engineering and it came with a couple of lenses all for £50. It put both the fun as well as a little more professionalism into photography. It was completely manual which forced me to think about the focus, shutter rate and aperture levels but allowed me to play about with settings slightly off what they should have been. I used that camera for years in fact until about 2-3 years ago when it kind of died. I had for a couple of years prior to that started experiencing with the digital revolution starting off with a Kodak DC-40 which closely resembled a brick. It was easy to use tho’ and the results were very good, at least they were for snaps.

I went thru’ a period then of managing to sell the digital camera I had for as much as I’d paid for it and upgraded thru’ 4 Kodak digicams that way up to the 2MP Kodak DC3400. I have to say if anyone wants a good introduction to digital photography take one of those, it’s a ‘can’t go wrong’ camera, the lens is excellent (much better in comparison with a mate’s compact Fuji 3.3MP, and a hell of a lot easier to use, with his half the pics were always shaken and the focus was always a bitch.)

I did love my Kodaks but I’m a bloke and I like gadgets and I wanted a beefy camera that kind of said ‘I could have been a contender’. I took advice and spent a staggering £300 on the Minolta Dimage 7i. I have run some 5000 pics thru’ it now and it was it’s quality and reliability that led me to upgrade recently to its big brother the A2. Do I need such a flash camera, no, could I resist it, of course not!

But there is something still somewhat magical about the good old-fashioned way of taking pictures. I missed it, and about 18 months ago bought myself a 2nd hand Minolta Dynax 7xi which is very nice and quite flash but very automatic, so I’m currently testing out some old-fashioned manual cameras to see what I might be happy with. I like something metal and clunky rather than the modern vogue for streamlined and lightweight. Since you can pick up some really classic SLRs from the 80s for around £20 now I thought hell I’ll try some out. Some of the pictures in the G8 photo album are with my Praktica BC1 which I have to say is going to be a hard act for the others to live up to. Since then I have run some through the Minolta X-300 then the Praktica BCX followed by the Canon A1. I may try the Canon AE-1 and the Minolta X-700 if I can get hold of them cheap. I’d like to give the Nikon FM2 a go but because they are still used quite often professionally as a great camera to shoot from cold the resale value is still pretty high. If anyone’s used any of these cameras etc. then feel free to give me your feedback and experiences.

I’m not wanting to give the impression that I am in any way an especially accomplished photographer, I like to think I take the odd decent pic but that isn’t the point. I have always enjoyed it and always will and I have always got irritated even as a very young child if the duplicate representation does not match the orignal. I used to go into fits of rage at primary school in art classes because in drawing and painting I couldn’t accurately duplicate what I was envisaging in my mind. It drove me nuts and it still does, hence the need always for bigger and better cameras to record the events as I have seen them. If you like gadgets on a budget good old-fasioned 35mm SLR cameras will take some beating.

Song Of The Day ~ Goldfrapp – Utopia

Original Comments:

Shane made this comment,
Who can forget the agonising wait to see if those photographic masterpieces were actually anything like the image you remember taking. I used to have a lovely Canon Slr which I gave up figuring a decent photographer would put it to better use but it was the best camera I ever had. I’ve gone digital now which just lets me take more bad photos without worrying about the expense. Which is something I suppose.
comment added :: 30th August 2005, 09:19 GMT+01 ::

rayts made this comment,
i’m so sorry, Red…I pasted the wrong draft. would you be kind enough to delete my first post?
rather, here’s the right comment i should have pasted…(again my apologies)

I had fun reading your entry Red. I was salivating with envy reading those models of camera you own and still wish to own. I guess our ‘ultimate’ driving force for engaging into photography is the same—curiosity, the need to express and capture something that we thought is ‘monumental’ no matter how trivial they seem to be.

Perhaps, every curiosity for taking photos starts with the instamatic cameras, the point and shoot buddy. Hehe. As expected, we always end up frustrated with the shots. Those were the times when parallax error doesn’t make sense to me and that distance ain’t workin’ in an instamatic cameras. I became obsessed with photography the day I discovered I couldn’t draw. Haha. Silly me, one can’t even distinguished the difference between a pig and a dog in my drawings (both having identical tails).

You’re right. SLR has always been a reliable buddy. My first SLR (the old-fashioned, heavy, metal body-typed) was borrowed from my cousin who doesn’t even know the difference between the aperture and shutter speed. It’s a complete set with all the accessories. I can’t afford to have one so, I had to maximize the use. Until one time, my brother practically saw me salivate to a new SLR cam and beg him for it. It’s a Nikon F55, which I truly adore. I usually stuck with one or two brands of cameras. Nikon or Olympus or Canon proved to be the brands I like. Then came digital photography, which I’m now enjoying (not having to go through the manual processing)…I started with the unrealiable Kodak 2MP, then settled with the Olympus C350 zoom which is rather convenient and produces more quality pictures. I’m still dreaming for a Nikon digital SLR, which cost around US$1k-2k (bloody expensive)…well, things will come in its proper time, I know I’ll have one soon (dream on).

Photography is such an expensive hobby if you know what I mean. But such fulfillment you get when you’ve produced the right image you’ve always dreamed of is simply priceless. Right? What are the usual subjects in your photos, red?


* I hope you’ll have the time to post here some of your precious shots.

comment added :: 30th August 2005, 09:49 GMT+01

John made this comment,
My first camera was a box ‘Brownie’ which had been my Dad’s. Now I have one of these digital things. No skill needed. Just point it and correct all your mistakes on your computer. I sort of miss all those ‘headless’ people.
comment added :: 30th August 2005, 14:45 GMT+01 ::

Mark Ellott made this comment,
My first proper camera was a Zenith. These days I don’t use film. Digital has proved an accomplished siren.
comment added :: 30th August 2005, 16:12 GMT+01 ::

zmunster3.jpg Leicester Tigers Vs Munster

Date: 26 Aug 2005   —   15.00   —   Other


Leicester Tigers 50 – 19 Munster

I took the kids to the rugby. It was a pity the performance wasn’t the best because they got really quite into it both of them happily yelling “come on Munster” with their Dad. It was something my Dad and I used to do on a Saturday back in the late 70s when he would take me to see Rosslyn Park in London. You’d think it wasn’t the place perhaps for girls but my daughter was perhaps the most fanatical of all of us!

Total attendance was somewhere over 7,000 and I’d say well over 6,000 of them were Tigers fans. In the clubhouse stand where we were I think there were no more than 10 of us and bearing in mind our group was 5! Still you do your bit and roar approval when appropriate much to the chagrin of the home fans.

It was a friendly so there wasn’t the plethora of stars that Munster could have fielded but Rob Henderson and Johnny O’Conner were on the field though they both had pretty quiet games. Paul Burke the fly half played very well and certainly in defence the Munster line looked solid but we were weak out wide and Leicester are not and it was pretty much from this area that they took most advantage.

It was all pretty even for the first half an hour and we were leading 9-6 at one point and looking decent. The first Leicester try out wide seemed to knock the stuffing out of ‘our brave boys’ and we went in at the half 9-21 down.

It all kind of went downhill from there, Munster were attacking to our end in the second half and I was hoping to get some good shots with the camera but I think they only came down our way twice. Up the other end Leicester were spreading the ball wide and looking more menacing in attack than we were. I guess it is a credit to the Munster tackling which by and large was very good indeed that we didn’t end up down by a score more suited to cricket but in the end it was only in the final minutes when we got a try to bring the scores to 19-50 that even lent it a little respectability. Our defeat was made the worse by Leicester playing recent defectors from Leinster Leo Cullen and Shane Jennings, Cullen in fact scoring a try.

It was a pretty fair result really, we weren’t creative enough and whilst the defence built confidence the attacking lacked any fluidity and we looked rusty and clumsy. The amount of times ‘that crucial pass’ went to ground or knocked on in the line, I lost count in the end. Of course Leicester are dirty bastards in the ruck as ever and they didn’t disappoint in that department, but they seemed to be more alert and more ready for the season.

Bloody hope Declan whips the boys into shape for the Celtic League, they’re going to need more options for it let alone for the Heineken Cup.

[Oh and the picture’s my own work, it was a good shot but underexposed so I pissed about with it and took it the other way making it oversharp and grainy, kind of looks like a newsprint image now which I was pleased with. It looks better in its original form which is bigger but that buggered my gutters up!]

Song Of The Day ~ Stereophonics – Devil

Original Comments:

baracuda made this comment,
I went to see Leinster v Northampton when I was in Dublin last week. Leinster got beaten too, not as badly, but it doesn’t bode well for Irish rugby this season. Without the stars there is very little strength in depth.
-Redbaron responds – I saw Leinster pre-season last year, they usually play Coventry but didn’t this year. I think in the case of this game Leicester had more like a 1st team than Munster did but even so you are right we don’t have the depth and I think that is bourne out by last season’s performance where all the provinces were pretty average.-

comment added :: 4th September 2005, 02:55 GMT+01

“You are prepared to evict people from their homes and you aren’t prepared to even talk with them?” Israeli settler in the Gaza strip in response to the first days of expulsions from the Gaza area as part of the withdrawal plan.

I am somewhat struck by his failure to understand the ironny of such a statement, is he simply blinkered as to history or is it a result of years of Israeli propaganda that has sought to give the impression that Israel has always existed here and thus should continue to do so? Leaving aside the actual legitimacy of Israel’s position in the Middle East which is highly questionable, it is astonishing to think that in a matter of little more than a generation the Israelis have already entrenched themselves

It is not the only current situation of contradiction, another in similar circumstances is in Ireland again where a feud between loyalist paramilitary organisations the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Volunteer Force resulting of the killing of one man. It is interesting that this does not seem to carry the same weight of news as any actions by Republicans. Ian Paisley is not trotted out onto the interview platforms and asked when the loyalist paramilitaries are going to decommission, there is not wholescale condemnation of the loyalist paramilitaries or the seeking to link current loyalist politicians with a paramilitary past as there is on the other side. If you look on the BBC for news from Ulster you will find more prominence is given to the fact that a stretch of train line in Armagh between Lurgan and Portadown was recently closed due to the discovery of a “malicious object” than the news of the killing of Michael Green or the attacks on a Catholic school and church in Ahoghill Co. Antrim which have been described by some as a concerted effort to purge Catholics from the area. Police have had to hand out fire blankets and smoke alarms to Catholic homes in the area because of a strong threat of further sectarian attacks.

Just as Israelis are not questioned forcefully about their side in the attrocities the same is true of the hardline loyalist politicians who are not questioned as to why the UVF/UFF/LVF are still in existence at all or why the loyalists are the ones permitted to derail the future of devolved government when it is precisely they that have the most vested interest in that government never coming into existence at all.

It has long been the case that the news is reported in a very subjective fashion, we should not be surprised about it but we should be aware that it is happening as part of a concerted and sustained policy and that to be able to pick what are seemingly mundane daily occurrances is not the exception but the rule.

Remember they who control the past control the future. Orwell knew it.

Song Of The Day ~ Hard Fi – Tied Up Too Tight

Original Comments:

jamal made this comment,
Correct, it is very ironic the way Israelis complained about having to move, when they have themselves neen moving of palistiniens for many years. Also Arial Sharon trying to come accross as peaceful for “giving” back the land is ironic, as can you give back what is not yours?
comment added :: 31st August 2005, 22:34 GMT+01 ::

I have been contacted by Richard “Nibby” David regarding the resumption of his suit against Honeywell on the grounds of his being contaminated by depleted uranium whilst he worked in the aerospace industry. I confess his name rang a vague bell but I could not place it so I did some digging. What I found was the following:

From 1985 to 1995, Nibby David worked as a civil engineer in the aerospace industry in Yeovil, UK, for the company Normalair Garrett, now owned by the US company Honeywell. During this time he had to handle many components containing depleted uranium, the consequence of which are an increased rate of dicentric and ring chromosome mutations in his lymphocytes. These mutations are known to be caused by exposure to ionising radiation. He now suffers from a very rare disease called Gitelmans syndrome which usually manifests itself at birth not in one’s late 40s as in the case of Nibby David. Nibby David is dying as a result of the exposure.

Nibby tells me that the trial has been sceduled to restart 4th October 2005 until 23rd November 2005 at the High Court in London. Sadly his case is much more against the heart of the establishment and therefore subject to less publicity than the MacLibel trial (in fact the only reference in the media I could find was IndyMedia and 1 reference last year in The Guardian) but it is in many ways a more potent and important one for the precedent that it could set. This is especially prevalent in the case of the Gulf War Syndrome cases who are currently fighting to have the medical link recognised between depleted uranium and cell detirioration and deformity, this goes some way to explaining the media blackout in Nibby’s case. Currently Nibby is without a lot of support financially and practically, for example not having anywhere to stay in London for the duration of the trial. If anyone has any way of giving him assistance I urge you to do so. For my part I will be forwarding this case on to organisations that I think could and should help such as Respect and my trade union, if you are affiliated to any such organisations please do the same. I have also contacted George Galloway to see if it is a matter he may be able to raise in Parliament and the Morning Star newspaper in an attempt to raise the public profile as much as possible.

I do not like to think of a man who has firstly suffered greatly simply as a result of a job which should not have been so hazardous and secondly then had the courage to try to do something about it on a wider scale feeling that he is alone. Furthermore it would be a disgrace if the justice for one man was curtailed in any way by financial or personal constraints and for it to be something as trivial as a place to stay beggars belief. Through much of my life I have always been apprehensive of whether I had the conviction to truly put my principles on the line in such a circumstance, it would at least be to my credit if I can help someone who clearly has that conviction.

So this is a Redbaron call to arms if you like. Time we stopped chatting about what is wrong in the world and how to change it and time to put some hours in to actually do so.

(Nibby if you are reading this and haven’t seen my reply to your last comment get in touch by the means listed there.)

Song Of The Day ~ Bob Marley – Get Up, Stand Up

Original Comments:

Mark Ellott made this comment,
I’m no longer a member of a trade union (since my redundancy) – so there’s nothing practical that I can suggest beyond what you are already doing. Frankly, it’s appalling, but then, no surprise…
comment added :: 17th August 2005, 19:29 GMT+01 ::
Pimme made this comment,
It’s sadly all too typical of a company to endanger a person and then try to keep it quiet when he seeks compensation. I hope that Mr. David wins his lawsuit. Shame on the media for all the cover ups, too!
comment added :: 21st August 2005, 01:43 GMT+01 ::

In certain circumstances it gives me no pleasure to be right, this is one of them.

Last week a Conservative party spokesman, Gerald Howarth, stated on Radio 4s Today program that if Muslims weren’t prepared to swear allegiance to Britain then they could go somewhere else. This was followed up by Liam Fox, Conservative front bench MP saying that whilst this was not central party policy it was true that if people didn’t like what Britain stood for then they had to consider their position.

In light of the already precarious position of foreigners here this really adds fuel to the fire, there will be many happy to stand behind this sort of ethos, the “if you don’t like it why don’t you go home” as if firstly just because they have a different coloured skin they are not already home, and secondly as if dissent is somehow illegal. If every dissentor was sent away under those provisos you’d never have any change, just a country full of fascists. It starts with Muslims when that “threat” is neutralised who’s next?

One musn’t forget to take this sort of comment in context. In this country there has just been a legal battle to stop curfews and exclusion orders being issued purely on the grounds of a person’s age. There have been attempts to legislate against humour as something potential to incite racial/religious hatred. Something comedian Chris Langham describes as “social engineering through the back door, telling us what we can and can’t find daft.” As comedian Rowan Atkinson says by bringing such things into the hands of government control you have a position where just because the current goverment may allow things does not mean that another will.

Add to this now the calls for those charged with terrorist offences to be charged with treason, and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which came into force this week and prevents any demonstration within a half mile radius of the Houses of Parliament, this law truly establishes our “representatives” in their ivory towers. It was brought in to stop protestor Brian Haw who has been encamped in protest outside Parliament for 4 years, however Mr Haw managed to win a High Court injuction as his protest pre-dates the law, he is now the only person allowed to protest and his stance in essence renders the law redundant.

Then there is the judge-only proposals where the police can apply to extend the detention of a suspect before they actually have a charge. Furthermore these judge-only pre-trials would be used to try suspects where intercept and Secret Service evidence could be brought. Of course the old chesnut is used: ‘if the Secret Service reveal intercept evidence and the like for the first time in public then the methods of evidence collection and in some cases the informants may be revealed. This is a very dangerous smokescreen indeed because it is but one step away from the allowing of serious evidence in trials that will remain unchallenged in certain cases. Since habeas corpus as well as the right to silence have already been removed one wonders at what point the erosion of the rights of the individual within the British justice system will stop.

All this does remind me very much of the lead up in Germany from 1933 to 1939. I am not saying that in this case the agenda is the same from the outset, at least I sincerely hope it isn’t, but the potential for serious problem should anyone be in the position to abuse the legislation should be caveat enough for all of us. In Germany it was the emergency powers given to the chancellor whilst Hindenberg was the incumbant that allowed Hitler much of the free reign he later enjoyed. Furthermore it was the fact that the media was almost solely in the hands of one man, Alfred Hugenberg, that allowed Hitler to ally with Hugenberg’s Deutsche Arbeits Partei (German Workers Party) then simply replace the Hugenberg with Goebbels later in the 30s. Much of the infrastructure needed was already there in 1933 for the Nazis to use, Hitler only needed to win the election really and then it was a done deal. Since Hugenberg’s control over the media had already been pumping out extreme right-wing propaganda through the Weimar Republic years some of the groundwork had already been done. Hugenberg owned the Telegraph-Union which was a merger of 4 press agencies in 1913, in 1916 he had taken controll of the Scherl press group (Berliner Abendzeitung, Der Tag, Die Woche, Neuesten Berliner Handels- und Börsennachrichten, die Gartenlaube, Sport im Bild) in 1917 the Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft which subsumed 3 film distributors was formed, Hugenberg gained control of it in 1927, in 1922 Hugenberg found the Wirtschaftsstelle der Provinzpresse (WIPRO) a pan-regional press agency for the distribution of local/regional news, is this starting to mirror the career of anyone you can think of? This steady surge of media control by one man with his own defined political agenda had such a profoundly damaging effect in Germany what makes one think that Murdoch’s influence in the world will not go the same way?

I know the media is one of my favourite bugbears but in the context of the assualt on all human rights that we are currently undergoing you might expect media outrage calling the government to account but instead they are used as the spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down. Have some tits, who’s the latest person out of Big Brother, do you know who he went out with last night, look at the lives of these celebrities etc. etc. etc. All mindless pulp, just serving to keep bombarding us with enough shite that we miss the bigger picture and only realise when it is too late. We need to wake up now.

Song Of The Day ~ Fear Of Music – Skin & Bones

Original Comments:

Mark Ellott made this comment,
I’ve been banging on about some of these things myself – what about the civil contingencies act? This allows government to dissolve parliament and rule by cabinet in the event of an “emergency.” Who decides what is an “emergency”? Yup, government ministers…
Just don’t start me the anti terrorism legislation and habeas corpus…

comment added :: 17th August 2005, 19:34 GMT+01 ::

Christiane F. (Wir Kinder Von Banhof Zoo)

Date: 03 July, 2001   —   $20.24   —   DVD / VHS

product page


Christiane F. is a very well-known film in Germany but for all intents and purposes obscure anywhere else. The brutal true story of a 14 year old Berlin girl who goes from childhood into heroin addiction. It was originally a book collaboration between the protagonist and 2 reporters from the factual magazine Stern

The most shocking part is the normalisation of it all. That is especially prevalent, Christiane is not a born rebel, her home circumstances mirror that for so many children she does not have a background of violence, drug abuse or prostitution. The crowd she has got in with a not a particularly riotous bunch just average teenagers. The whole mundaneity is so disquieting because you can’t dismiss it as another world somewhere that you and your children do not inhabit.

The fact is that she is still a child and this comes back to the fore every now and again, she is ill-equipped to deal with life in the real world and certainly not at this its most sharpest end both literally and metaphorically.

There is no neat happy ending, this isn’t a film that ties things up nicely, after all that would kind of undermine the point of it and real life simply isn’t that packaged up. Whilst you have an idea of some of the things that are going to happen it is still powerfully shot as a film it doesn’t lessen the impact.

This told of a different Berlin from the one I knew. The Berlin I loved was dark at times but in a mystifying haze of intrigue and the like. But that was only the real Berlin for films and spies. The everyday Berlin was no different for those who lived there from the London I grew up in and learnt to despise. If you take a look out there on the net, this film remains a cult and there are still teenagers wanting to emulate the Banhof Zoo lifestyle, I find that very disturbing. There is still a culture looking up to the original heroin chic, which would suggest that none of the anti-drugs messages really have any longevity.

It is not your classic anti-drugs film, after all the real Christiane F is still alive though having had a number of runs ins with the police for re-using heroin. Once again this adds to the obvious authenticity of it. it is not simply some morality tale, it is a document of somebody’s life, it serves as a cautionary tale in many ways but only because those of us not in that situation can look upon it from the comfort of our own living rooms and be sure that we’d rather be here than there. Hopefully we have the ability to ensure that our children feel the same.

Christiane gave this interview in 1981 some 5 years after the interviews she gave that led to the film. I found it sad, it seemed to show into the mind of what could have been. She now lives in Spandau, Berlin with her son.

Song Of The Day ~ David Bowie – Helden

The last session has raised a particular question that needs perhaps to be tackled in its own subsection, call it the seminar that follows the lecture to stick with the OU analogy if you like!

There are many groups who struggle against what they see as oppression. We may indeed agree with many of their motives but we may not agree with their modus operandi. Obviously the most prevalent of these examples is when it comes to violent insurrection.

In an ideal world everyone would be represented and things would be equal without being homogenous. Without getting into an argument about how possible this may be and to what degree desirable I think we can all safely agree that it is not the case now. This means there are many marginalised and disenfranchised and they have a right to struggle for recognition, again I don’t think this is especially contentious. What is more the repressive armies and police of the state constitute quite legitimate targets and any focus on insurrection should primarily be aimed here. The problem comes if such resistance to the actual bodies of the State proves ineffectual.

Remember that the armies of the state rarely play by the rules when it suits them. Take the Israelis the most heavily-armed and crack-trained military unit in the world. Occupying large areas of land in defience of international law they flout the rules and regulations laid down and whilst they may be censured for doing so they are allowed to continue because there remains the upholding of the ‘might is right’ principle. They think nothing of obliterating whole areas of residential -?- in order to secure 1 “legitimate” target. The Palestinians would certainly be highly unlikely to inflict serious military damage against the Israeli army because it is not a level playing field, they have neither the hardware not the training nor the manpower and therefore they fight in the way they know how.

So in such a one-sided conflict it does seem rather bourgeous to sit and eulogise about only attacking military targets etc. I do not deny it is right as a utopian strategy, but I question it’s effectiveness and therefore its relevance in the modern world. Not to do so is I feel not to understand the nature of the problem, it labels such conflicts as wrong because of the methods without necessarily the acknowledgement of why these methods are adopted and the cause for which they stand. It is, for example, all very right and proper to condemn Al Queda bombers for their targeting of civilians but one must be very careful not to be swept up in that tide of condemnation that merely labels these men as mad extremists and begins a path to reprisals and retaliation. After all it IS as a direct result of US foreign policy that the West is so unpopular and not just in the Islamic world but across swathes of the Far East and Central & South America where their self-indulgant interventionist policies have ridden roughshod over democracies and the needs/wishes of the people for the good of the US establishment. Let us not forget that the US has the most-equipped Air Force in the world and has used it to bomb over 50 countries since the Second World War. It seems a large number, how many do you think you can name? In the face of B-52s and such like can one really be so self-righteous as to tell disperate groups of ordinary men that they may only attack legitimate military targets? It’s a hell of a choice. It is easy for me because I sit in my house and I can just about get by from day to day and I have just enough education to perform as it were. Would I have the luxury of such circumspection if I lived in Ramala and Israeli shells were frequently blowing up parts of the neighbourhood? Or if I was an African or South American marxist seeing my country starve because of the raping of resources by the West and the corruption of the governments that support them. Would I still feel that talking about the problem or being nobly detached from engagement empowered me in any way shape of form?

Another aspect to add to this question is that the world’s major powers now run on economic might and it is precisely this force and power that is used to subjugate so many. Should this make Wall St. a legitimate target, or the World Bank building, the WTO, the IMF offices? I feel the case for this is strong based on the widescale damage these organisations cause, and yet whilst I would certainly baulk at the possible loss of innocent lives, withdrawing from any conflict in this area may yet result in the death of thousands, maybe millions more. Do we not have to strike a balance? At what point do the lives of the many outweigh the lives of the few? Is there such a point, is it static or fluid? I think the only conclusion of sorts that I can come up with is that this has to be a choice for the individual, each of us may face it and based on our characters and experience we may make different decisions, history or perhaps your God may judge you for your actions. If we apply our usual tenets to any such situation it should help us decide what is right. To me the Gandhi “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind” quote is such a powerful mantra that it would have to take a very serious cause for me to reconsider that approach. After all it was Gandhi who achieved much with non-violent confrontation. I would like to think this approach can always work but I fear there are many situations where it may not and then the question raised is one of whether you are prepared to stand up for your principles and to what extent you feel prepared to take that stand. Will I ever choose violence over peace to try to achieve what I believe is right, definitely not, but will I defend what I ardently believe in, what I consider paramount for me and my family, by any means necessary, I would like to think I might find the courage to do so should the occasion ever arise.

I would like to end by citing an article of a fellow (!) academic, Abhinav Aima, which was brought to my attention by my twin and whose prose is a deal more eloquent than mine and goes some way to explaining the roots of the current Middle Eastern problem within the context of this session.

Song Of The Day ~ The Magic Numbers – Which Way To Happy?
Original Comments:

Mark Ellott made this comment,
I would suggest that the average Israeli is much the same as the average Briton and is unable to effectively influence government policy. Some Israeli soldiers are courageous enough to refuse to serve in the occupied territories and I admire their resolve.
Ultimately I stand by my original statements – the deliberate killing of civilians is murder. It matters not whether the people doing it are wearing uniforms or otherwise.

I absolutely agree with your Gandhi quote (one of my heroes). Given sufficient support, civil disobedience can bring governments to their knees. After all, if the country stops working, the economic drivers are seriously damaged. It worked for the Indians. I agree, for the Palestinians it might be more problematic, though. However, continued bombings undermine any attempts to achieve settlement by the Palestinian leadership. They should give these people a fighting chance to succeed.

comment added :: 3rd August 2005, 08:31 GMT+01 ::

I do not think I need to add anymore to my fairly well-publisised view on violence however what does need to be looked at is the perception of who the aggressor is in many of the instances of “terrorism”. It is a much-vaunted mantra that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but does the evidence support the claim?

If you take Ireland as an initial example, the problems stem from the British occupation and the planned migration of many protestant Scots to the hitherto Catholic Ireland and principally the northern Ulster province. Britain needed to drive the indigenous population as far away from the coast as possible to avoid them giving assistance to the Catholic Jacobite rebelllions which were taking place to undermine the accession of William of Orange. (Bonnie Prince Charlie and all that) Hence for many years the Irish had been fighting the English in what would legitimately have been called an independence struggle but would have been seen by the British as terrorism. In the other 3 Irish counties fighting stopped after the gaining of Irish independence after the First World War but a part of the independence conditions were the retaining of the six counties of Ulster by England as part of the United Kingdom. It is interesting that people regard partition generally as a very bad thing and see unification as an ultimate goal -look at the perception of Germany in 1990, and yet they do not understand why there are still problems in Ireland. Of course the situation of the six counties is tricky because of the Protestant contingent (the Loyalists) who do not want to go from being part of the protestant UK to part of the Catholic Republic of Ireland and the Catholic contingent (the Republicans or Nationalists) who for obvious reasons do not want to stay part of the UK. The original IRA was a Irish organisation fighting for an Irish nation pre-1922. After the treaty granting independence the organisation split many times before becoming what was known as the Provisional IRA (Provos) which is what most people think of when you mention the acronym nowadays. Generally it is accepted that the Irish had a right to fight for their autonomy and yet somehow an arbitrary line has been drawn in the sand declaring it unacceptable for those still in Ulster and remaining under British military rule to continue their struggle.

Now take the examples of the Palestinians who previous to 1948 had their land and post Israel settlement had large sections of it confiscated for the creation of a nation that has no geographic precedent (Like the Irish it was in fact the British that caused the shit in Palestine too!). Like the Irish the Palestinians had their territory occupied by a difference ethnic and religious group and this caused friction. Like the Irish the Palestinians chose to resist this in many different forms and the less electoral influence exacted the more violent tactics and civil disobedience was employed. When civil disobedience comes up against the most heavily armed force in the world it is clear that something is going to have to give. The less empowered people feel the more likely they are to take drastic measures. Unlike the Palestinians who do not have widespread representation in the Israeli Knessit, the Irish never felt the need to use suicide bombers because they always had a foot in the electoral door too which has eventually led to the potential for change. It would however be folly to suggest that the Irish question would have been in the agenda of any British premier were it not for the possibility of the IRA bombing the shit out of London. No, I do not agree with the bombing of civilians, but I also categorically disagree with the marginalising of peoples by oppressive governments leading people to believe that the only thing they can do is fight back violently. This is why I can understand the disenfranchised desperation that can lead to such actions even if it is not the course I take myself. Do not make the mistake in thinking that suicide bombing is a new or specifically Islamic thing. The military tactics of the whirling Dervishes as well as the Kamikaze Japanese pilots are a couple of examples. The most common and widespread use of suicide bombers is by the Tamil Tigers who are not islamic but a secular Marxist group fighting for autonomy in Sri Lanka. To take the example further there are Western soldiers lauded as heroes who, when the die was cast, decided if they were going to die they’d take as many of the enemy with them as possible. It’s the old cornered rat analogy. This is seen as a legitimate military tactic in war-time, which is exactly the perception of reality of many groups using such tactics today

There are a myriad assortment of other struggles from East Timor’s occupation by Indonesia, the FARC’s battle against the repressive Uribe regime in Colombia, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Marxists in Nepal, Pro-Democracy movement in Burma, ETA in the Basque country in Northern Spain etc. etc. etc. However these are not high-profile cases because on the whole the incumbant regimes have done little or nothing to tick off the US, in fact in many cases the regimes have supported the US openly such as in Colombia and Central America and have therefore received funding, training and hardware courtesy of the jackbooted Uncle Sam. Basically if you have tactical significance or natural resources heaven help you if you democratically elect anyone that you’re not supposed to. You can vote for anyone you like as long as it’s the ones they tell you to.

The common thread through these conflicts is that there is a clear aggressor, whether you agree with the reasons or simply accept the way history has panned out or not, in the Ireland question it is the British, in the case of Palestine it is Israel and in Iraq as so many others it is the US. Thus the way the oppressed feel towards the oppressor determines how they feel it necessary to act in order to free themselves. In the case of many of the former Eastern Bloc countries the oppressive governments were overthrown by peaceful demonstrations whilst in Romania Ceaucescu was seen as a more entrenched despot and his use of the Securitate meant there was considerable bloodshed and battles like Timisoara in order to change the status quo. It may not even be the actual facts of the agressor that is important but the perception of the agressor and this is the part that can be used as a recruiting sergeant. The Americans have for many years used the Big Bad Wolf theory to justify many things in particular some homeland security measures and the defence budget to back up a very agressive foreign policy. The Big Bad Wolf theory requires there to be a threat from a monster, a renegade or a rogue state and looking back there has been one for the Americans for most of the modern era from Hitler direct to Stalin to Kruschev to Castro etc. etc. through Gadaffi, Ayatollah Khomeni, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, Osama Bin Laden etc. There is always one, as soon as the threat from one is neutralised there must be another to take his place, the maintaining of the heightened state of public alert is paramount.

We are fed propaganda in a way similar to WWII but most people don’t see it as such. There is the belief that since we have so many different sources of news that we cannot be hoodwinked how we once could. This is a total misnomer and one of the biggest smoke screens of all. This will be discussed in Session 5 the Media.

Song Of The Day ~ Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Heatwave

Original Comments:

haywood made this comment,
funny how one factor runs a line straight through money money money mon…….ey, yea ehhhh.
comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 02:46 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Minor historical correction – although it doesn’t alter the gist. The Jacobites fighting in Ireland against the usurper William of Orange were supporting King James II – Bonnie Prince Charlie’s grandfather. He was let down by the French who had promised support – that and tactical blunders cost him the battle of the Boyne – the rest, as they say, is history. Incidentally, had Charles continued south from Derby, he would probably have succeeded and the Stuarts retaken the throne.
As for freedom fighter/terrorist – those who write the history books usually decide. Having said that, they cross the line when they deliberately target civilians who have no control over the policies of their governments. Even the ballot box offers no real control. Would our middle eastern policies be any different had we a conservative government? I don’t think so.

-Redbaron responds – you are quite right about the initial Jacobite rebellions not being Bonnie Prince Charlie, tho’ there were of course a number of Jacobite rebellions in support of both the Old and the Young Pretender and the influx of ‘Blue Scots’ continued as the threat of support from Ireland for the Catholics remained. You are correct to mention the Battle of the Boyne as being something of a watershed in the level of threat from Ireland.

The victor’s version of events is definitely the one that history records. As for the policies of terrorism. It is easy for us as fairly comfortable and lucid men who find expressing ourselves easy to be able to say that civilian targets should not be acceptable when we both agree that the electoral alternative is a hollow choice. There are many who do not share our pre-disposition for discussion whether thru’ choice or lack of ability in that area and it is a fertile recruiting ground for violent extremism that they should have no other way to express their dissolution. This is why I understand it whilst not necessarily agreeing with it. These are after all the tactics of war. Hiroshima was hardly a legitimate military target, it was a civilian one set in order to bring the Japanese military to its knees. –

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 09:18 GMT+01 ::
rocky made this comment,
great post, as always.
i agree with mark – the line is definitely crossed when innocents are targetted, whether the innocents are children in palestine or bus passengers in london or people going in to work, to the world trade centre on 9/11.

perhaps, had these ‘freedom fighters’ successfully or unsuccessfully targetted the white house or 10 downing street, we would not label them ‘terrorists’ as easily…but anyone (be it a palestinian suicide bomber or a british paki one) blowing up civilians/innocents is NOT a freedom fighter, in my opinion, he is a misguided murderer and an idiot.

-Redbaron responds – But there are so few examples of serious revolution/change etc. that do not come about within the climate of loss of innocent lives. One could maintain that soldiers are only the pawns in the games of the masters. At what point should the line be drawn? In an ideal world no violence, no death should be necessary as an expression of disenfranchisation and yet that is just not the real world. It may well be that our non-violent ideals are all very noble but conceivably outdated and ineffectual against the tactics employed by the status quo who do not shy from violent confrontation. At some point the ends have to justify the means but I cannot say what point that is. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, in my view yes, so that means sacrifices are necessary, the question is how far should one have to sacrifice? –

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 11:40 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Simplistic though it may be, the line is the difference between a military target and a civilian one. Soldiers sign up for active service and know exactly what they are letting themselves in for and are armed, so may fight back. Civilians have no control. The only blurring of the line occurs when soldiers are conscripted and have no choice.
The analogy of Japan – and by inference London and Dresden is an interesting one. However, with hindsight we may criticize. Those making the decisions believed that the tactic would bring the war to an end more quickly and therefore minimise casualties. If we must judge them, then we should do so on the sensibilities of their times, not ours.

-Redbaron responds – I think the line regarding Dresden and Hiroshima are more blurred, the US would have dropped the first A bomb on Dresden had it been ready in time. As it was they had to satisfy themselves with napalm. In the case of Dresden it could be argued that Germany was militarily finished by this point. Likewise in the case of Japan. But I agree hindsight is 20/20 and thus genuine critcism is reserved for hypotheses.-

comment added :: 2nd August 2005, 11:53 GMT+01 ::