Springingtiger's Blog


Death and the New Year.

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Two days into Twenty Seventeen and we’ve already had the terrorist shooting in Istanbul and another mass shooting at a new year’s party. We are being told that a terrorist attack on British soil is inevitable. Am I worried? Surprisingly not in the slightest.

When I say I am not worried I mean I’m not worried about a terrorist attack. Statistically we are all in a lot more danger from dying as a result of an air crash or road accident than at the hands of a terrorist. I am far more concerned that our politicians are going to use the supposed threat of a terrorist attack to further curtail our liberties and to spy upon our every day activities. I am concerned that our politicians’ eagerness to reject the European Convention on Human Rights will undermine the Good Friday Agreement and expose us to the possibility of renewed paramilitary violence in the North of Ireland and to bombings on the mainland. I am worried that withdrawing from the ECHR will provide the Westminster government with an opportunity to destroy the limited devolution settlement Scotland now enjoys and anxious that it will lead to a further diminution of employment rights. The threat of Islamic terrorism against targets in the UK is very low on the list of things that concern me. I see the rise of the Right and of post Brexit xenophobia as far more dangerous to the UK than Islamic extremism.

I have to admit that I can see no logical reason for fearing death. Death is inevitable and no amount of fear will prevent it, only an idiot fears it. On the other hand it is equally stupid to unnecessarily seek death, except possibly in the face of debilitating illness. The upset of bereavement makes a degree of sense, it is natural to be upset when we lose someone we love. However death is inevitable and we will inevitably lose people we love, everyone we know will eventually give up this physical body and move on to something else. There is little point in speculating what comes next because we can’t know until we get there, assuming there is anywhere to get to. If all that awaits us is oblivion then there is certainly no logical cause for fear.

Last year was marked by the deaths of many much loved celebrities as well as many less widely known benefactors of humanity in various fields, some of whom may have contributed more to the world in practical than even David Bowie. There is a meme on social media at the moment showing Bruce Forsyth saying “I made it, you bastards!” referring to the perception that Twenty Sixteen had been massacring entertainers; and, of course, there is the ever popular meme, “Breaking News: Keith Richard found alive!” The fact is that every year actors, musicians, academics, writers, politicians, and many other people well known in various fields will die and this year will be no exception. While our beloved celebrities are dying there will be many ordinary people dying from illness, war, the effects of the UK Government’s austerity measures, unjust sanctioning of the sick and disabled, road accidents, natural disasters and many other causes and most of us won’t even notice. No one life is worth more than any other, nor any less. Every life should be celebrated and every death marked with respect.

Many of us will die this year. Perhaps some of us by violence, hopefully not. The inevitability of our deaths is not cause for anxiety, nor upset. That we must die is an excellent reason for enjoying our lives to the utmost while we have them. We are all as capable of joy as we are of sadness, so why not choose to have fun? Our joy is not caused by our circumstances, but by how we relate to them. I don’t have any plans to die this year, but I’m not going to worry about the possibility which will be there every year until it isn’t (or I am not). My plan for this year is to live every second to the fullest, anything else is a waste of a precious gift. As for everyone else’s lives, I intend to celebrate them whether they are alive or not. Now I shall retire for the night and probably celebrate Leonard Cohen or Elvis perhaps. So many lives then and now and each (even the worst) carries a gift that deserves to be celebrated.

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To Do Justice…Corbyn and the prophet Micah

 

It is no secret that it is years since I was a practising Christian, but anyone who reads my blog will know that my conduct is still very much guided by the teachings of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel because after reading widely I still think it is as good a manual on how to behave towards other as has been written regardless of one’s personal faith or lack of it. It should not come as any surprise that if I were to sum up my guide to conduct I would take a single verse from the prophet Micah (6:8) ‘And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.’ I think it’s a useful yardstick against which to measure one’s own or another’s conduct. Today it occurred to me that it might as well be used to measure politicians like Jeremy Corbyn or Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

No one can deny that Jeremy Corbyn’s life has been dedicated to to promoting justice. Sometimes it has got him into trouble particularly when he has opposed a nation assuming to itself the right to oppress and exploit its neighbours. When that nation was Israel, Corbyn’s honest criticism of their conduct was interpreted by extremists to be an attack on Jews. However his lifelong opposition to racism makes that charge ridiculous and only the very stupid could honestly believe it, although the very dishonest might feign to. He has always stood firm behind working people having the right to protect their jobs and the terms and conditions under which they work and he has fought for those freedoms against any party, even his own that has tried to remove them. He may not have managed to stop the Conservatives and Blairites eroding workers rights, but he hasn’t stopped him from continuing to try and when a party has acted to support workers’ rights in particular, or human rights in general, he has supported them.

Some of the things Corbyn voted for were put on the statute books by Tony Blair’s government such as a minimum wage unfortunately it was so low it may actively have helped promote a low wage economy. Blair allowed pitifully restricted Devolution to Scotland and Wales. He introduced a Human Rights Act, not to mention extensions of the rights of gay and transgendered people however the emphasis of his government was on promoting the traditional view of family life. Perhaps his biggest success which is now threatened by Brexit, and Michael Gove’s stated antipathy, was to sign the Belfast Agreement. I think we should not forget that Blair did some things to further fairness and justice and to allow Iraq to be seen as the sum total of his Prime Ministership would be unfair. He has been criticised for not doing enough to promote justice and he did not reverse Britain’s funding cuts for the International Labour Organisation neither did he do anything to reverse the Conservative attacks on Trades Union rights and he further undermined their influence in the Labour Party. Did he love justice? I think so, but his conception of justice which he was prepared to compromise for expedience

It is on the second part of Micah’s injunction that really Blair falls down, a man without mercy. He plunged Britain into a war without the support of the people and under the pretence of combating terrorism allowed him to introduce restrictions on personal freedoms. Since the Iraq war his consultancy business has actively advised oppressive regimes on how to spin human rights abuses. While Blair was encouraging war as a means of regime change and putting in place the conditions that allowed Al Qaeda and Daesh to grow and flourish, Jeremy was, as he always has, opposing the use of war to further political ambitions. Whereas Blair and his supporters see war as a commercial enterprise that sells arms and boosts British influence, Corbyn opposes it for its effect on innocent civilians and the restrictions military action places on their right to a normal life.

Above all I think it can be fair to say that no one could accuse Tony Blair, or indeed most politicians (look at Neil Kinnock or Nigel Farage) of humility. Blair may claim to be a Christian, but that did not stop him utterly ignoring his Bible or the needs and wishes of ordinary people to play the game of International Statesman and war leader, leaving millions dead, sacrificed to his vanity. Corbyn, on the other hand is the single most unassuming and humble of politicians, but does he walk humbly with his God? I am led to believe that Corbyn is an agnostic in religious terms, but if he has a god it is plainly the people he serves. Whereas politicians like Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair are content to consider their personal opinions as more important than the wishes of ordinary people, whereas the Parliamentary Labour Party abrogate to themselves the right to determine Labour policy and actions without any consideration of the people who supported them as candidates and upon whom they will rely if they are to be elected again, Corbyn is firm in his stand that the Labour Party belongs to all of its members whether in constituencies, Trades Unions or Parliament. It is because of Jeremy Corbyn’s humility that he will not stand down as Labour Party Leader until those who appointed him to the role ask him to leave and it was not the wealthy elite at the top of the party who put him where he is, but the ordinary members.

Tony Benn said, ‘I was brought up on the Bible, that the story of the Bible was conflict between the kings who had power, and the prophets who preached righteousness. And I was taught to believe in the prophets, got me into a lot of trouble’. Jeremy Corbyn is on the side of the prophets.



Undemocratic Abuse (protecting the right to vote)

 

On Tuesday there appeared on my timeline a request that I sign a petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131305). This is not an unusual thing, but it highlighted an issue that had not previously occurred to me. The system of voter registration we have in the UK effectively disenfranchises many people (mostly women) who have escaped abusive relationships.

The Electoral Roll is a public document and so any woman who registers to vote exposes her whereabouts to her abuser. Faced with the likelihood of further abuse many women do not register to vote. It is theoretically possible for an abused woman to register without her details being available to the public, however it is extremely difficult to do so as is detailed by the Women’s Aid article in the Huffington Post  in June last year, please read the article as it is pointless for me to repeat what has already been so well presented.

If I may summarise the argument; because it is so difficult for a victim of domestic abuse to register to vote anonymously and the dangers presented by being otherwise on the Electoral Roll, victims of abuse are effectively disenfranchised. They are unable to have a say in the government of the country, unable to support the parties they feel will best support their rights. The victims of abuse are robbed of a fundamental right, the right to vote. As long as it is difficult for the victims of abuse to register to vote the abuse they have suffered is actually continuing because their abuser is robbing them of their democratic rights and our electoral system is colluding with that abuse.

All the petition asks is that abuse victims leaving refuge be automatically offered anonymous inclusion on the Electoral Register. It is a small change that will make a big difference. It affirms that the victim is as entitled to a place in society as their abuser and that their opinions matter. It affirms their humanity. After the degradation and dehumanisation they have suffered why should abuse victims continue to be treated as less than any other member of society? As long as victims are kept off the Register we cannot claim to be an inclusive democracy.

Please, please sign this petition and help it get 100,000 signatures by 25 November so that it will be put before Parliament. Better still get everyone you know and everyone they know to sign, lets put the number of signatures into the millions so that Parliament actually takes action to prevent this continuing abuse.



I Am Voting Yes For Peace

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I do not think of myself as a Christian because I no longer believe in the doctrines of the Church. However when it comes to my personal conduct and my personal views I lean primarily on the words of Jesus the teacher, prophet and man of peace, they were drummed into me as a child and they continue to guide me. Like Gandhi I find the Sermon on the Mount inspiring; Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
  “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.

I don’t believe that anyone can claim to truly follow Jesus if they do not actively pursue and promote peace. Sadly pacifists and opponents of unjust wars and campaigners against nuclear weapons find themselves persecuted and ridiculed, often by alleged Christians who have rejected Jesus’s call for peace.

The campaign for Scottish Independence makes an important stand for peace on two fronts. Firstly we are calling for the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland. As we have seen in the justification for United States of America and United Kingdom’s attack on Iraq, the possession of weapons of mass destruction does not deter attackers, but rather makes one’s country a target. They are an obvious target for terrorists, but whether or not terrorists attack nuclear installations, they do not deter terrorist attacks; they certainly didn’t deter  9/11. Because nuclear installations are so symbolic of military superiority and arrogance, any attack on them would have massive propaganda value which must make them tempting to terrorists. No government with any genuine concern for its people would allow a nuclear site to be placed close to a population centre, yet the Government in Westminster sited Britain’s nuclear submarine base just outside Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. It is obvious that they consider the West of Scotland to be indispensable, why else would they so vehemently oppose siting them in the Thames or any other English port.

The second stand for peace is the refusal to be dragged into illegal wars, or indeed any war for which we have not voted. The people of Scotland overwhelmingly opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they were ignored and dragged into the wars anyway. I can’t help but remember that when a disciple drew a sword to save Jesus from the soldiers, Jesus’s response was, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”, it is a clear injunction to reject violence. We should have the right not to engage in war and neither should we have to finance any war we have chosen not to support.

The No campaign has tried to make the Independence referendum about greed and selfishness, but for the supporters of a Yes vote it is primarily about principles and human rights, above all the right to make our own decisions. The No campaign is promising enhanced devolution, if enhanced devolution does not contain, as a minimum, the right of the Scottish Parliament to veto any war agreed by the Westminster Parliament, and the removal of all weapons of mass destruction from Scotland, then it is inadequate and we must reject it and vote YES to independence; no amount of tinkering with our taxes can compensate for not having the freedom to determine our own future.

Jesus says,  “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” and also, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” I see this as a call to integrity and at no time is integrity more important than when the future of a nation and its people is at stake and yet we have seen scurrilous dishonesty on the part of the representatives of the No campaign both in their words and organisation. The behavior of the No campaign has, at least, the benefit of compelling the Yes campaign to back up all its claims with documented sources. Because of the record of the spokesmen for the No campaign we hit a snag, even if the No campaign were to promise to remove weapons of mass destruction, the evidence suggests that we would be stupid to believe them. Scotland has a right to be a peaceful nation and to follow the peaceful teachings of Jesus; No foreign government whether in Westminster or Washington had the right to stand between Scotland and peace, nor to place party policy higher than the words of Jesus which still guide the majority of Scots, believers or no.

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A New Scottish Manifesto

I am not standing for election to the Scottish Parliament, but if I were then this would be my manifesto.

Why should you vote for an Independent, an Independent has but one vote and no party to give him or her weight? You should vote for me for exactly that reason, because I am independent. Party politicians are bound to vote along the party line whether that favours their constituents or no whereas the independent is free to fight for their constituents regardless of the will of the party bosses. It is true that parties have much more voting power than independents, but a party MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) has no more power individually to influence than an independent. In fact because of our voting system it is possible that your independent MSP could – if the party shares are close enough – wield considerable influence.

Most people recognise that some spending cuts are inevitable what is not inevitable is where those cuts will fall. Some cuts must not be allowed. Libraries must be protected, a cut in library services disproportionately effects the elderly and the disabled. Whereas most people can buy ordinary books fairly cheaply audio-books and large print books tend not to be as readily available and are rarely discounted so people with sight problems are hit harder by library cuts than others. The Internet is considered almost essential, the library allows people on restricted incomes and those who need support in using computers access to the Internet. The library is warm, light and there are people, this is important when someone lives alone and is hard-pressed to meet heating costs, six days a week they can escape their isolation and the cold.

Public transport is essential to many people with disabilities. Many of us are unable to drive for various reasons and we rely on public transport, wheelchair access buses give freedom to many people. If public transport is cut, if free bus passes are cut then many disabled and older people will be denied basic human rights of participation in society. Without the bus we cannot work or get out for entertainment or to socialise. The free travel enjoyed by the elderly and disabled secures for them a basic human right to be part of society.

It is time that society stood up not only for the disadvantaged but also for those who care for them. When cuts lead to the loss of a daycare place it isn’t only an old or disabled person who suffers, but frequently a carer is deprived of a precious few hours of respite. More must be done to make easier the lives of carers, there should be dedicated support readily available, increased availability of respite care, carers should receive free public transport when accompanying the person in their charge and they should also have parking privileges.

Education must not only be protected but enhanced. Everyone should have the right to Internet access, if not in their own home then easily accessible locally. We need to look again at language teaching, surely for economic reasons it makes more sense to teach Arabic and Chines than some European languages. Like everyone I feel that the cold-blooded attempted murder of the Gaelic language was reprehensible, but that is no reason for teaching it. Gaelic should not be allowed to die out, but it has not been a majority language or of much commercial use for several centuries. It made some sense for the newly independent Irish Republic to make Irish the national language as a century ago there were many Irish speakers and it reinforced a national identity, there is no such justification for over-promoting Gaelic. Education must be useful, there must be an aesthetic and cultural element, but the emphasis now must be on technological literacy. Scotland may be on the edge of Europe but technology can put her at the heart of global society.

We need to concentrate on developing an economic model that can raise the income of the Scottish People. We must restore the quality and reputation of Scottish Education and we must make use of technology, rather than looking to the – now discredited Irish and Icelandic – we should be drawing our exemplars from the East and providing the world with services which being based on global inter-connectivity do not geographically disadvantage us. Oh, and we should continue to build on Tourism.

I believe in Scotland, I believe in the ingenuity of the Scottish people – just look at the roll of Scottish inventors, entrepreneurs and adventurers – I believe that with vision Scotland can stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest of nations. No nation today can stand alone, but Scotland can be the partner of many and the equal of them all.

And so if I were standing for election – which I’m not –I would venture that I have the will and the vision to make your vote count. Thank you.