Isis or Daesh or whatever you care to call it is having a banner year. Firstly, they stormed the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed several of its journalists and artists, later on they murdered several mainly British tourists at a resort in Tunisia. For a ghastly encore, they managed to bring down a fully laden Russian plane en route from Sharm el Sheikh to Russia with the loss of all on board, some two hundred and twenty men, women and children. They saved the best until last when they stormed several cafés, a concert hall and a major football stadium in Paris and killed over one hundered and twenty souls and wounded, some very seriously, another three hundred odd, some of whom are likely to die, so pushing up the overall death toll. Oh! and by the way, they let off a number of bombs in a crowded part of Beirut a few days ago and slaughtered around forty civilians. The idiots behind this death cult choose to justify their massacres by reference to the Koran and their followers accept this justification without question. It is truly hard to know where to go with such people. By the way, I must have missed out a few mass killings in my list but it is hard to keep up. Apologies to the unacknowledged victims.
Ms Jen Scharf has been teaching free ‘yoga’ classes at the University of Ottawa since 2008. When she offered to run them again, this year, the Students’ Union refused permission on the grounds that such classes represented ‘cultural appropriation’ and were offensive to those of South Asian heritage for they would potentially remind such people of the indignity they suffered under British colonial rule. Good material for a blog piece, I thought and so I settled down to a little research. Quickly I learnt that the leading thinker on the subject, one George Lipsitz, coined his ‘seminal term’ on the matter: strategic anti-essentialism! On learning that, any thoughts that I had about tinkering with the topic evaporated. Now, there is jargon and there is jargon and Mr Lipsitz’s bons mots definitely belong in the second of these categories. Presently, it appears that universities are rapidly turning into places where feelings are more important than learning and that even something as benign as exercise classes are capable of upsetting someone.
Cultural apprpriation prompts me to ask, in all innocence, whether Ali in Mogadishu, who takes a ride in a car, uses a mobile phone, has an injection of penicillin or consumes a sausage roll would be guilty of the crime? Or does it only work one way so that when I decide to do a few Tai Chi classes, I am guilty as charged?
It had been my plan to write at length on the Paris attacks and their aftermath but I have been laid low by the nastiest attack of ‘flu that I can ever remember having. Most of the past week has been spent in bed, sucking on lozenges and chewing tylenol. There are some signs of recovery but they are pretty feeble. My poor wife, Pat, has picked up my lurgy and is not feeling too sharp herself. By the time I felt able to write anything, the initial frenzy over the outrage in Paris had subsided rather and I was not sure that I had anything further to offer over what has been said a million times in the regular media. So, instead, I decided to ponder on the Full Circle.
November 29 2015
PS I have been having a few technical problems with sending emails and so I am not sure whether the link to my previous piece arrived. If anynoe is interested, here is the link again: The World according to Humpty Dumpty.
It was published on November 10.
Lots of eye catching items in the news of late!
An article in the Times claims that a brisk walk does a person more good than time spent in a gym. The walk has to last more than 30 minutes and be repeated at least five times a week. Several advantages accrue, if this article is true: no expensive gym subs, no sexy and expensive lycra knickers, no need to take the car to the gym and struggle with traffic and parking. Several years ago, when I was working in Calgary, the ophthalmologists of that city hosted a bunch of young trainees from India so they could come and see what we clever, Canadians were up to. After they had been with us for a few weeks, we organised a farewell tea for them. We asked them if they had learned anything that would be useful back home in their practices and had they noticed anything about Canadian life they wanted to comment about?
Rather shyly, their self-appointed spokesman put up his hand and pointed out that in the small town he came from, everyone walked from place to place to carry out their daily chores. In Canada, by contrast, he seldom saw anyone on foot. But, they had all noticed large buildings with huge picture windows, inside of which were people bouncing around on machines, presumably taking exercise. The young folk from India found this absurdity very funny. It was noticeable that the visitors were all slim and their hosts, rather portly.
Poor Vladimir is having trouble with aeroplanes. Some time ago, a loaded passenger jet was shot down with a Russian made missile over Eastern Ukraine. Mr P and his henchmen did not make it very easy for the Dutch operators of the plane to investigate the cause of the crash and to attribute responsibility. A few days ago, a Russian jet, bound for St. Petersburg, full of Russian holiday makers dropped out of the skies over the Sinai Peninsula with the loss of all on board. Minutes later, the lunatics running ISIS, claimed that they had brought it down in revenge for recent Russian interventions in Syria. The black boxes have been recovered but both the Russians and the Egyptians, over whose territory the outrage occurred, have said that the cause of the crash will take many months to unravel. Mr P does not want to establish any links between the crash and his activities in Syria. The Egyptians do not want to scare tourists away from its resorts in Sinai. Matters have developed and Britain was the first to announce that it was a racing certainty that some toe-rag, in the pay of ISIS, had smuggled a bomb on board. The Russians have reacted sensibly and have cancelled flights to and from Sharm-el-Sheikh. They continue to hold that sabotage was not the cause of the disaster. Let us hope that realpolitik will not trump the publication of the truth.
it is unsurprising that the US and other countries have called for even stricter security measures at airports, especially those in the Middle East. Apparently, the Israelis run the safest airline anywhere. They expose all checked baggage to testing in decompression chambers to determine if any pressure sensitive devices have been concealed. They also employ profiling in their personal security checks. Sensibly, they deem that a little old Jewish grandma, on her her way back home to Brooklyn after visiting her grandkids in Tel Aviv is most unlikely to be up to mischief. On the other hand, they spend a lot of time going over the effects and person of a young, unaccompanied, Arab male. They have decided that such an individual poses a greater threat.
The most horrifying story to hit the news of late is that of the two sisters from a village near Delhi in India, members of the untouchable caste, who have been sentenced to be repeatedly gang-raped and paraded naked through town, by the unelected village council. Their crime? They are the sisters of a lad who ran away with a married woman of a higher caste. Various organisations around the globe are mounting petitions to the central government in India, imploring it to put a stop to the punishment. It is unclear to me how carrying out such acts on the two sisters will materially affect the errant, young man. If the elders are so shocked at his presumption, perhaps an extra-enthusiastic circumcision might have been more pertinent. I gather that the caste system is an integral part of Hinduism. The outrage about to be carried out in India is another example of how mindlessly people are prepared to act when motivated by perceived insults to their faith.
There are echoes of this story in the Old Testament, (Judges 19:24) when Lot is aghast that the local men seem bent on ‘knowing’, i.e. fucking his male guest. He offers the guest’s concubine and his own daughter to the mob, instead, and invites it do as they will with the two young women. What is it with religion?
Latest piece: The World according to Humpty Dumpty
November 10 2015
Regular readers will be relieved to learn that the Orthodox Jewish sages, who declared that children whose mothers drove them to school would not be admitted to class because their mothers’ behaviour was immodest, have gone over the relevant chapters in Leviticus and decided that their initial interpretation of the scriptural law was in error. It’s all right kids, you can go to school however you manage to get there. I believe that the authorities in the UK who supervise the operation of schools suggested that the sages had made fools of themselves and that they should have another look at the holy books. Unfortunately, there is no word yet about the Islamic cleric in Saudi Arabia changing his divinely inspired understanding of gynaecology. It is likely that he, too, will realise that he is an idiot and will seek some other interpretation of the scriptures.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the World, another bunch of holy men have declared that a recent earthquake involving Mount Kota Kinabalu was caused by a bunch of Canadian tourists who elected to climb to the top and pose naked for selfies. It appears that the spirit of the mountain was greatly offended and had no option but to trigger an earthquake. Seems entirely reasonable, does it not? Professional comics are fast becoming redundant. One can get all the laughs one needs from the antics of seers, sages and other holy men.
The following three incidents speak for themselves. Comment and questions are superfluous.
A few days ago, Lester Bower, aged 67 years, was led from his jail cell in Texas and taken to an execution chamber and filled with lethal drugs. He had been living in his cell on death row for a little over thirty years and his execution had been delayed while legal appeals went through the courts. On one previous occasion, his execution had to be postponed because the drugs obtained had gone past their expiry date. In Kano, Northern Nigeria, a fourteen year old girl was acquitted of murder. She had been married off against her will to a man more than twenty years her senior and had somehow managed to lace the food to be eaten at the wedding party with rat poison. The husband and two others died. The girl was let off as she was considered to be a minor and thus too young to be convicted but old enough to be married. Albert Woodbox, a coloured man, who has been in solitary confinement in a Louisiana Jail for just under forty years, has been granted unconditional release by a judge. However, the attorney-general of the state disputes the ruling believing Woodbox, who is frail and elderly, poses a threat to the local citizenry.
Latest piece: Two Books
June 13th, 2015