Today I was sent the following trailer for a documentary to be released concerning a protest staged in Scotland against the Jerusalem Quartet, a group of Israeli musicians.
At the moment there is a massive campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel, to express non-compliance and non-legitimisation of the blockade on Gaza and treatment of the Palestinian people. This includes a cultural and academic boycott.
The 5 members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign protested the Israeli group and were promptly ejected, arrested and set to try for breaching the peace.
However, this was revoked and replaced with a racially motivated charge.
This raises questions as to whether this is admissible in law.
To criticise a nation states actions is not to criticise a race of people.
To use strong words to describe situations as genocidal is not to be racist.
And by exercising a right to express their own belief as to what is occurring in Palestine is not to be anti-semetic.
If this charge is passed in an extreme sense it could mean that you are unable to openly criticise Israel in a public arena.
And I wonder if other nations might jump on the bandwagon?
The game show blared from the tv set in the front room – a new flat screen high definition model that Uncle Aleksander had bought Anna on her 80th birthday a few years ago. It jutted from the wall beside the fireplace, silver and alien, the latest addition to the menagerie of out of place items paying tribute to each era past in that large house on Belvoir Road.
Klara paused as she softly closed the front door behind her, catching canned applause trickle from the next room. Holding out her hand she steadied herself on the peeling peach dado rails that used to be train tracks for her toys as a child, kicked off her school shoes and shouted hello to her Nana. Klara dropped her bag to the floor where a small, carpeted suitcase had been propped up against the wall. Today she felt more grown up than 16 and the strange mixture of sadness and guilt collected in a lump in her throat and forced her teeth to clench as she placed her keys quietly on the sideboard at the bottom of the stairs.
The game show soldiered on, all white teeth and toupee’s urging on the middle aged women in bright sweaters and clashing lipstick. Anna stared blankly at the screen, watching the blurry pictures appear and fade in front of her cataracts. Today she couldn’t bring herself to shout back to Klara with her usual gusto and instead she muttered to herself, cursing the game show’s winners, the losers, the tv set and her son Aleksander for ever thinking of giving her such a ridiculously pointless thing. She could barely make out a face from the smudges of colour on the screen. Her body was giving up on her. Thank God her memories worked, even if they were only in Polish these days.
Klara swung around the door to the front room where Anna sat, still mumbling.
“Fancy a cup of tea Nan?”
“Yes darling, that would be wonderful” she replied, not moving her gaze from the tv.
Klara paused and watched her Nan for a moment. The old lady sat hunched in the corner of the beige sofa, smartly dressed, short hair combed, cardigan and slacks perfectly pressed, shoes laced. She looked as though she was about to attend an elderly parent’s evening. Or church on a Sunday. Her hands sat limply in her lap, withered like gnarled branches, almost blue to look at.
“Happy birthday Nan”, Klara said.
Anna looked up and smiled as her granddaughter left the room.
I have had a brilliant little mini adventure with mollitas this weekend to copenhagen to meet up with two of my favourite human beings.
amongst lots of walking, beer, laughing, smoking, market shopping and lake sitting we spent some time in christiania on their 39th birthday.
christiania is a freetown haven in the middle of copenhagen city. It is full of all sorts of wonderful people and self built houses and little secret places beside lakes and inside nooks and crannies with none of the forced sheen of perfect society. I had a quick conversation with a danish resident, who was informing me of the beauty of the scilly isles when reached by boat. This was rather lovely and surreal as he told me about the party that was to ensue that night. The food was good, the people friendly, the lakes beautiful, and i generally felt that this was a place where they were trying to being honest with their society... warts and all, it was there, mixed up in between the recycled garbage and hash stalls.
a turbulant history is tied up in violent, theatrical and peaceful struggles for autonomy and independence from Denmark. The squatters and believers in a self ruled community have faced vast political opposition from the day of christianias creation. But I don't really know the ins and outs of the place so i won't pretend to..
i just had a lovely day wandering around the city with my good friends and a bottle of their excellent christiania home brew.
so i thought i would write a small note about a series a friend of mine has just reintroduced into my life:
the century of the self
I remember watching this is at university.. it was so compelling i saw some of it sat in the library with headphones on, crammed into one of the small wooden boxes stacked with video players from the early 80's. the headphones even had the little foam removable covers. that made me smile.
It made the rounds through my friends, passed from computer to computer, filling our little creative minds with possibilities of what could have been and how it all has ended up. we finished up a little bit angry, and a little bit more confused about the state of the world.
almost 4 years on, some friends and I sat through the second episode of the series and something clicked with me that I hadn't thought of before. the whole documentary is so condemning of capitalism, of freud, of the individual self.. of democracy.
but in such a charming British way it barely seemed to scuff the edges of dissent.
what is democracy? Can democracy exist without capitalism? Is democracy ultimately the best thing for us? With the current climate of financial meltdown and credit crunch situation hitting the people hard every day, no one seems to notice the message written in the skies above all the broken promises that the governments public relations information (aka propaganda) that is asking for change...
but democracy keeps changing with us, following us with new promises of bright futures and change for the better...
i don't know if the word really has any meaning for me anymore.
maybe its time for a new word that holds a new idea inside?
One week in to my course and we are focusing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The UDHR is a framework which acts as an ideal to which all nations should be striving to accept and enforce in their respective countries. There are some fundamental elements of the UDHR which I believe in completely. The right to life, the right to expression, freedom of movement, special measures to safeguard children and so on. However, the link between law and enforcement of these rights is tenuous and obtrusive - intrinsically by some of the rights themselves.
Today i spent some time describing to some of the Swedish students how instances of direct action have been pardoned in a law of court as acts on behalf of human rights in the UK: The right to life being the most obvious, and a protection of this right. The trident three, the decommissioners. I was asked what the point was of having laws against breaking and entering if they are just going to be broken.
I instantly thought to myself that it was obvious. The right to life is imperative and fundamental- the most important as it is the primary factor that enables human rights: to be able to be alive and live a life. But the right to private property is a capitalist notion... yet it is considered a human right in the UDHR. Surely the two are hugely differential in their importance and their application? You cannot compare the two on the same level.
Are laws created in the vein of the current ideology not there to be tested? Or else how does humanity grow?
As George Bernarnos says:
"Civilization exists precisely so that there may be no masses but rather men alert enough never to constitute masses."
How can law which is supposed to be created by 'the people' in a 'democracy' determine their rights? surely such legal positivism is corrupt in favour of the authorities who create and enforce such 'rights'? Rights are conceptual and idealistic, they are borne from humanity.
The UDHR is a westphalian ideal. It is capitalistic in its shape, form, ideology, economical focus, interstate relations, refusal to address weapons of destruction, ignorance of the arms trade, avoidance of the environment. It imposes the idea of what the capitalist half of the world demands for the rest of the world in order to operate. This is how the world works right now. And I am beginning to wonder if the UDHR perpetuates such a situation or whether it is 'trying to make the best of a bad situation', struggling to enforce the rights of the/a minority within an ideological system which systematically disregards their needs? After all it is the shape of the world today, whether we like it or not. Whilst we protest for change there are still people in need living each day to the next, trying to get by. existing.
This conversation was followed by a statement arguing that nations need weapons. they need defenses because of the way the rest of the world acts- to protect themselves. To which I was shocked. I was shocked on two accounts. firstly because I am a hippy by nature. I believe in peace and the use of force and violence against the person is something I disagree with because it scares me how much power is instilled within a country/person when they have the option to remove the right to life... for another human being or for an entire nation or group of people. I, niavely, presumed that the person i was talking with would also be a hippy, believing in peace through non violence. Perhaps they do believe in peace... But through a 'static' violent presence? I don't know.
Secondly I was shocked with myself. I had just raised a question concerning where the International Covenant for Political and Civil Rights has been drawn from. I used the example of Haiti disbanding their army due to a succession of military coups, ultimately leaving them vulnerable to attack. So the needs of the people as individuals diminished the needs of the nation. Yet the nation is active as a protector of the people. Again 'nation' is another concept, one which operates powerfully in the current world order. But I had not considered that I was myself highlighting the importance of military and armed protection to a nation. ooft.
some food for thought.
combatants for peace
In line with some other inspiring grassroots community orientated reconciliation work happening in the Palestine and Israel, this group is working for a future for Israelis and Palestinians that is free from violence. It began jointly by Israeli's and Palestinian's who were previously active in the violence of the conflict- soldiers, combatants, resistors..
the goals of the group are:
- To raise the consciousness in both publics regarding the hopes and suffering of the other side, and to create partners in dialogue.
- To educate towards reconciliation and non-violent struggle in both the Israeli and Palestinian societies.
- To create political pressure on both Governments to stop the cycle of violence, end the occupation and resume a constructive dialog.
promotional video is here: