An Analogy For The Bombing Of Syria

So I want to continue to explain my viewpoint on the recent bombing and as I currently lack video editing software to make a video on the subject, I’m going to relay a comical little analogy about bombing using David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn and water balloons. You might argue making a funny blog post about such a tragedy undermines the gravity of the situation but the point is to laugh at the absurd logic of the characters and heighten awareness of the issue. You’ll think the characters stupid and ridiculous and when you do, realise that those stupid characters represent our government.

So, to set the scene, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn are hanging out together when along comes a guy wearing an ISIS t-shirt who calls David a wanker and runs and hides in a bar called The Syrian. David, pissed off by this, quickly goes home and makes himself a great big box of water balloons, whilst Jeremy watches with a look of concern.

JEREMY: David, I really don’t think this is a good idea

DAVID: Look, he called me a wanker. How many other people has he done that to? I’m going to make him and his friends learn a harsh lesson about common decency

JEREMY: By pelting balloons at them? Why don’t we at least talk to them first?

DAVID: Talk to them? If they’re willing to call strangers wankers, what makes you think they’re reasonable human beings?

JEREMY: Well maybe they are, maybe they aren’t, can’t hurt to try talking first

DAVID: Nah, I’ll lob balloons at them, asked my mates about it, they think it’s a great idea too

JEREMY: But you can’t just storm into a pub and lob water balloons around willy-nilly, you’ll get everyone soaking wet and angry

DAVID: I’m a really good shot with a water balloon, honest

So they go along to The Syrian, David and his mates with a box of balloons, Jeremy wandering after them with his own friends who mostly have hangdog expressions upon their faces. The Syrian is a relatively packed bar, with mostly ordinary people inside but there are some people wearing those ISIS shirts, mostly tormenting the other patrons and demanding free drinks. David sneers.

DAVID: See, those ISIS guys are dicks, look what they’re doing in there

JEREMY: Yeah well I don’t see how us going in there pelting people with balloons fixes the matter

DAVID: Well they probably have balloons too, I heard they were in that French bar the other day, they caused some real fucking mischief in there, I’m telling you

JEREMY: True, but the ISIS guys in the French bar don’t come to this bar or vice versa

David shrugs and starts throwing balloons, cheered on by his mates and even some of Jeremy’s mates start laughing and cheering. The balloon barrage begins, Jeremy watching uncomfortably as ISIS guys and normal patrons alike get pelted with balloons. Just then, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia comes along, watches what is going on and David explains. Abdullah laughs and asks if he can have some water balloons, which David agrees to and Abdullah wanders off with them, Jeremy watching him leave with some suspicion.

JEREMY: I think he’s going to give the ISIS guys some balloons

DAVID: Nah, we’re bezzie mates me and Abdu

JEREMY: Since when? You do realise Abdullah hangs out with the ISIS guys too right? He probably calls you a wanker behind your back

DAVID: Yeah but he’s sound really, we hang out too, he buys my lunch whenever we meet up. Plus, he gave me like, a tenner for ten balloons, good deal right?

Sure enough, the ISIS guys in the bar now have balloons, throwing their balloons back at David and even handing balloons out to other patrons in the pub, telling them David started the fight so he’s the one responsible for all this. Some patrons hurry out of the bar, pushing past David and company, some stick with the ISIS guys and some just lie there and get pelted with balloons. Jeremy voices his concern again.

JEREMY: Now everyone in that bar hates us, I’m pretty sure we can’t come here ever again

DAVID: I didn’t know this was going to happen ok? I just came here hoping to get the ISIS crew, the other guys just got in the way and that’s a shame but what am I supposed to do?

JEREMY: Stop throwing balloons?

DAVID: But I’ve hit so many ISIS guys

JEREMY: And lots more non-ISIS guys. You do realise they’ll all hide in our pub now right? I mean, I don’t have a problem with that but you hate anyone who isn’t your mate hanging out in our regular haunt

DAVID: Shut up Jezza, I’ll just tell the barman to shut the doors. Worked for that French pub. Besides, the water balloon fight is well under way now, if I stop throwing balloons, that doesn’t mean they’ll stop

JEREMY: They might if you apologise and leave them alone, maybe offer them a towel afterwards?

DAVID: What am I? A bloody towel merchant? Look shut up and toss a balloon already

But of course, Jeremy doesn’t and the balloon fight continues, with everyone involved getting soaked to the bone by the back and forth of balloons and David keeps giving balloons to his friend Abdullah, who then gives balloons to the ISIS crew, who are nutters that just fucking love balloons. Eventually, they’re all going to be too wet to throw any more balloons and everyone will be miserable and have a cold and need to wring out their shirts and only then will David realise he had done something very dumb and now the ISIS guys have left the pub out the back door, hiding in various other pubs waiting for David or his mates to come in so they can hit them in the face with their own balloons. David will have to apologise to the owner for throwing so many balloons and setting off a huge fight (The Syrian has had a tense atmosphere, people don’t much like the management and the ISIS guys stir up trouble a lot of the time) and whilst his apology will be reluctantly accepted, David probably won’t get served in that place and by extension, neither will his mates or even Jeremy most likely, just for association.

Now this was all very silly but if you read this thinking that David is a bit of a twat, guess what, this is a very scaled down and simplified reconstruction of the decision to bomb Syria. I’m not using this as the end-all argument, I’m not that stupid and taken literally, this post is not a great explanation of our situation but it gives those of you lagging behind a simpler model to refer to instead of combing through news articles (Though I implore you to get up to speed). Bombing a whole nation, even with ‘targeted precise airstrikes’, is akin to running into a bar and throwing stuff at the people you don’t like and when people say that’s a bad idea, you respond with “But I’m really good at throwing stuff, I promise I won’t break anything by accident”. Yeah, when has that ever worked? Funny thing is, David’s predecessor, Tony, had this same idea twice over and neither time did it work out and David thought him a twat for it at the time but now David’s had the idea, it’s suddenly genius.

We don’t want war and if we did, Syria isn’t the enemy, Syria hates ISIS as much as we do, they’re the victims, the trapped masses forced to fight under their flag or die in the gutter and presented with that choice, it’s noble to say you’d rather die but many of us would cower from sacrifice and live as bastards. Our problem nations are the ones pumping money into ISIS and slipping them munitions for further chaos – Turkey, Saudi Arabia – but we don’t start beef with them because they’re our allies and they have a lot of money that we want and that they’ll give us if we give them munitions… which somehow end up in the hands of ISIS. You see the problem here? Moral bankruptcy for financial gain, such is the way of our government and this has led us to declare war on a country that is still reeling from the last one it had.

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Political Filter

Staying with the topic of the recent tragedies, one thing I noticed people saying about people like me pointing out the “what-aboutisms” of places like Baghdad, Syria and Mexico was an accusation of politicising a tragedy to preach a liberal agenda and of disregarding etiquette and decency in our pursuit to make people listen. To that I say, quite simply, bupkis. You politicised it, we all did, political agendas are an immediate reaction from all of us to any news, any issue immediately forms an opinion within all of us – some of us see a shooter in the news and think “Probably crazy, couldn’t have been helped” and some of us will say “This is why we need better gun control” or “This is why I don’t want my children attending a state school”. You are capable of grieving and thinking simultaneously, the world does not stop and pause at each tragedy in the news and we are sometimes perhaps even desensitised to the real tragedies. So, let’s look into this shall we?

Firstly, the filters, you’ve perhaps got one on but I don’t and neither does my Facebook page. Why? Well you’ve perhaps heard the reasoning in your own news feed – Paris did not suffer alone so why is it only a French filter offered? Sure, could go for the red, white and blue and call it close enough to doing something but that doesn’t sit right because whilst I do not mean to belittle the tragedy of Paris, it hasn’t had the roughest week out of us all, Syria is still getting bombed, Lebanon had just had a day of mourning themselves beforehand and in Palestine, earlier this week, Israeli forces opened fire with ‘intention of lethal force’ on unarmed protesters. Baghdad, Beirut, Mexico, Japan, the world as a whole suffers and each life lost is just as sad as the last, be it in a bomb blast, a shooting, a car crash or whatever other means. So why then has Paris become the symbol of these tragedies, the one we stand in solidarity with above the bombed ruins of Syria or the persecuted peoples of Palestine? I have some thoughts.

My scary gut feeling tells me that perhaps ISIS wants to reveal the selective horror of the Western world, crying tears for the white faces that died in the city of Paris and somehow shrugging when you mention thousands of non-white Syrians fleeing from battlefields. Muslims being the dirty word again, but there are Muslims on both sides, ISIS calls the Christian a heathen but calls their fellow Muslim a traitor for not being ready to die for their cause. Could ISIS be playing right into the “us and them” mentality that permeates the west? Turning against each other as we nitpick which tragedy was the worst and most deserving of attention until we angrily close our borders to each other and shout from a distance at one another? If you mention the deaths outside Paris, you get branded a tactless liberal, a left-winged tosser and so on when this shouldn’t be left-wing versus right-wing, this should be good decent people against terrorists, it serves no merit to us to argue in amongst ourselves. Alternatively, perhaps the argument for why Paris is so tragic is that it is closer to home and hits us harder than deaths in Baghdad and Lebanon, it is in a location you can point out on a map without trying all that hard, a city of culture and repute and that scares us for geopolitical reasoning (If they can do that in Paris, they can do that in France and spread out. Suddenly places like Germany, Spain and England are all within reach and from there, spread further west like a horrifying plague). This could explain the Middle-Eastern mess to some extent – they get away with it in one place and we don’t really care all that much so the radicals move out and suddenly an entire section of the world is dismissed as a war zone full of extremists and bombers.

At a time like this, I cannot stand people taking offence and saying this is too soon for the discussion. No, it is not, it is exactly right – we have a short attention span in our modern world, we either act fast or not at all. If not now, when? When is it ok to discuss things from a rational standpoint? I was pleasantly surprised when I posted on here about 9/11 needing to lose the pedestal of the worst tragedy in recent history that I didn’t get grilled into submission and apology but I can perhaps chalk that up to a small reader base. 9/11 needs to lose that by the way, currently the ‘worst’ tragedy in recent history is the Syrian crisis, there are more refugees fleeing Syria now than ever fled their homes in the entire Second World War. The Syrian Crisis is having a worse fallout than a World War! Put away national security and identity and solidarity with ‘allies’ (Like Americans saying “The French were Americans on 9/11, we are French today”, you’re not, you put a filter on your profile pic, well done for your political instagramming) and realise that this is all of us, terrorism can succeed anywhere it is not opposed.

No more sombre-head hanging, no more immigration clampdowns, no more floral tributes and blames games, now is the time to say enough is enough because this is a problem we all face. Until we have crushed this terrorism that drives us to fear and hatred of one another, we need to stop being divided within our own ranks. Realise that you are not an American or an Englishman, you’re not a liberal or a conservative, you’re not a Christian or a Muslim, you’re a human being and somewhere out there is a group of people thinking that it is okay to execute your fellow men in droves. Stop them. Stand together as a species and stop them before they win because if we don’t, we’ll hate each other, we’ll cut our connections and then a few strategics here and there can bring each of us down one by one and nobody will help us. Mourn the lost but let that grief motivate you to save the living and fight the fight against the wicked.

Do Not Close Those Gates

I shouldn’t have to inform you of what happened on the 13th November 2015, certainly at least, not what happened in Paris. In Paris alone 128 killed and many more injured in a series of shootings and bombings in various locations across the city. Of course, that same day; a tsunami hit Japan, there was a day of mourning following the death of over 40 people in suicide bombing attacks in Lebanon and a bomber killed 18 people by blowing themselves up at a funeral. ISIS has claimed the responsibility for all these attacks (excluding the obvious tsunami which was caused by an earthquake) believed to have been motivated by the news that Jihadi John, a figurehead of their establishment, was revealed by a mole in his inner circle and soon after, killed.

I’m not here to say any of these tragedies are more deserving of recognition than the others as all of these attacks are carried out by the same people for the same reason, hatred and vengeance. However, I am here to address what we should do in the wake of these events, as some of us have responded to it with blind anger and prejudice, playing right into the hands of the terrorists that seek the destruction of our way of life.

Let me get this out there, I hold no sympathy for ISIS, they represent their faith just as well as the KKK represents the white man or Westboro Baptist Church represents Christianity, they are a splinter group of radicals, willing to sacrifice moral integrity and the blood of the innocent to satiate their thirst for vengeance against the world. You might want to pin the blame on Muslims, calling it a religion of violence but that’s simply untrue – there are over a billion Muslims in the world, if they wanted the destruction of the human race, they’re already in a good enough position to bring it about, truth is, less than 1% (0.003% to be precise) of the global population of Islam is actually interested in terrorism, you’re more likely to die falling down the stairs or getting hit by a bus than a crazy bastard running at you with a bomb strapped to his chest. The awful generalisation of the Muslim faith as violent extremists is inexcusable ignorance spewed from the mouths of those who do not care enough to learn the truth. To this end, let me further state my outrage at some of the genuine responses I saw to this news.

Firstly, there is a petition gaining ground in my home country of England to ban all immigration to this country after what happened in Paris, claiming that until the world is a safe one to live in, Britain should have no part in its affairs and as such, welcome nobody from outside our isles. This is ridiculous, you do realise the people turning up on our shores are running away from the same people we all hate right? ISIS isn’t politely queuing to get in, it’s not as if those refugees are sat waiting in airports like “Gee, I sure hope I get to blow up something significant. I was thinking like maybe I could blow up a bus station or whatever”. No. Closing the doors to the outside world means turning a cold shoulder to those who are suffering and whilst you might be callous enough to look the other way as a recently widowed mother and her baby die at the end of an assault rifle, I cannot and I urge our country not to adopt this “Not my problem attitude”. It is our problem, it is a problem the world must band together to face because it affects us all and turning away from it won’t excuse us from the wrath of these terrorists, they won’t give us a break, if they want to get into this country they will – people have snuck in and out of this country, recruits get out, extremists get in, they didn’t all have clever disguises and paperwork to do that – so closing the door will only shut out people with legitimate reasons to come here such as, say, their home was blown to smithereens.

Secondly, some of us have now become suspicious of those different to us in our own community and to that end, if that’s you, looking at every man in a turban with a stink-eyed glare and never trusting a man who introduces himself as Achmed, then the terrorists won against you. Terrorism isn’t just blowing stuff up, it’s scaring people into extreme paranoia and prejudice so they destroy themselves and make irrational decisions based on that. Muslims are as much a part of our community as Christians, Atheists, Sikhs and all other faiths, they have every right to exist and they are not somehow responsible for what happened – they probably watched the news just like you did and looked on in horror and just as your local vicar won’t say “Good lads those Westboro lot, kill all gays I reckon!”, your Muslim taxi driver or shop clerk won’t approve of what ISIS did. We need to cast aside prejudice, fearing of others and treating them with suspicion and hatred won’t fix this because hatred doesn’t defeat hatred, it fuels it and supplies it. You want revenge on some Muslims for what happened? ISIS wanted revenge for what happened to them, which we did to them because of what they did first, do you notice a pattern here? Hatred begets hatred, you want to end that hatred then you stand against it with understanding and care and solidarity.

Nationality and countries and defending your borders needs to stop, each nation needs to stop prioritising keeping their own safe because what ISIS is doing is a tragedy against humanity – they aren’t simply picking on one country or one creed of people, they attack without discrimination and they hate all that are not like them. Our anger at Jihadi John was for what he did but more than that, some people were furious it was the fact he was British and killing British people. WHY? British people kill British people, people kill people, national identity should not come into it. We’ve always wanted a clear cut conflict since World War Two, the last war in which there were good guys and bad guys, since then it’s been a murky shit-show of suspicion and here we are, a common enemy in ISIS for the world to band together against and yet we still prioritise selfishness over the desperate plight our planet faces. Enough is enough, you will not rescue anyone by cowering away from strangers and treating them with disdain, they want us scared and angry, scared angry people are stupid and easy to kill. If you want someone to hate, don’t say “Those fucking Muslims” or “Don’t trust those refugees”, hate ISIS, hate those that do not flinch at killing innocent people, hate such injustice and take that hatred and channel it into doing what is right and helping your fellow man. Humanity, I beg of you, stand together, realise that this is a problem that affects the whole world and do not let it be what divides us any longer.

Seeing Red This Christmas

The content here has delved into some deep matters so here is something so stupid to blog about it that you’ll either laugh at the fact it is deemed blog worthy or cringe and moan at the depths humanity has sunk to in its ignorant rage. There is genuine talk in the news and on social media of Christians urging people to boycott Starbucks for their new Christmas cups. Why you ask? Do the cups have Pagan images on or Satanic verses? Nope, the cups are plain, the cups are just plain red paper cups. Starbucks have done away with images of snowmen and wintry trees and opted for a minimalist design so as to appeal to as many people as possible by not bombarding their customers with Christmas themed imagery and thus excluding those who do not celebrate the occasion. Seems reasonable right? Well, apparently not.

Internet Evangelist Joshua Feuerstein is perhaps the most well-known opponent of this decision, accusing Starbucks of hating Christians and Jesus, urging people to keep the Christ in Christmas and encouraging people to tell their barista their name is Merry Christmas so the barista is forced to write that on the cup. Oh, very clever, well-played – the cups have never had those words upon them, even when they had snowflakes on. A lot of people are calling this a “war on Christmas”, I’d call it the exaggeration of the year but today the Sun published a two page spread on why Jeremy Corbyn is a dick for not bowing down and weeping for the fallen at a remembrance parade (Even though he attended two separate parades in two different areas and passed up on a VIP party to meet some of the veterans face-to-face). Starbucks has never claimed to be a Christian company and if you want to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, pushy Evangelists and whatever, there are more Christian things to be doing than protesting about cups. This same Feuerstein fellow protested the anti-second amendment rule (In the USA, Starbucks do not permit open-carrying of firearms in their stores) by waltzing in with a weapon on show and calling it his patriotic freedom. To recap then, we have ourselves a zealous gun nut defending his faith and freedom by waving a gun at a hapless barista and ‘pranking’ the unassuming customer service worker into writing Christmassy messages on a cup because the cup doesn’t have a picture of a snowflake on it… do you realise how stupid that sounds? This is what God allowed Jesus to die for is it? Paper cups with pictures on?Sure, I remember that passage – the Lord gave His only son that we might have decorative receptacles for our warm beverages.

If you ask me, the red cup is the perfect happy medium, it’s Santa’s sleigh red so it’s Christmassy enough but without being over the top and pushing the images of angels and baubles down our throats. Starbucks has never been all about the Christian market, they’re neutral on political and religious stances so as not to offend people – they only join in on Christmas because everyone does, it’s Christmas, it’s fun and you make a shit ton of money when you put out those festive deals. Christmas has its fair share of issues, a Christian hijacking of a time dangerously close to the Winter Solstice celebrated by Pagans, the imagery of Santa’s sleigh is taken from the Vikings and as a Christian celebration goes, this time of year is becoming more and more about throwing bigger parties and spending more money to get more ridiculously expensive gifts than it is about actual goodwill and charity. Therein is my biggest problem with this war on Christmas idea about the cups, the cups are not what is ruining Christmas, we are.

Put simply, if you’re outraged by these paper cups but not by some people spending Christmas face down in a gutter or soldiers fighting in a foreign land rather than gift wrapping a PS4 for their kids, I have serious beef with you. If you need a coffee shop chain to represent Christmas spirit FOR you, take a good long look at yourself and your relationship with God – rather than getting some barista to scrawl Merry Christmas on a cup, why not do something to keep the Christ in Christmas that has meaning? Soup kitchens always need volunteers, maybe give that red cup of hot choc to someone freezing in the cold and rain, maybe you could get less caught up in some trivial bullshit about a coffee shop packaging design and do something selfless that Jesus himself would smile if he witnessed. Life is much too precious to waste it on boycotting a shop for not selling the right design for you, is the biggest and brightest thing you can think to do this year for Christmas to be the guy who encouraged people not to buy coffee from some place? That’s your impact is it? That is what God wants people to remember in their hearts this time of year? I may not be of faith but if there is a God, he expects us to be good people at Christmas and all throughout the year, whatever our cups look like.

The spirit of the season is one of inclusiveness and togetherness, of spreading joy and happiness to all, friend and stranger alike and Starbucks has done so by offering a neutral stance at a time when some of us get a little too crazy for angels and babies in mangers. God sent his son to preach to us the importance of love and community, not snowmen and trees covered in tinsel. Maybe it’s easier for you to get upset over a cup than it is for you to show genuine concern about how many of us will spend Christmas in poverty or in a hospital bed or possibly won’t even see Christmas at all but that tells us only volumes about you. The Christ in Christmas is in loving one another, not in loving Christmas.

Anti-War Sentiment

Spoilers for Doctor Who first of all, tying in with today being Remembrance Sunday and yesterday’s Doctor Who being all about pacifist messages, I want to talk to you about why THAT scene of last night’s episode was spot on and why the message rings true of pretty much every war in the history of mankind – from the World Wars to the ongoing Syrian Crisis. Without further ado, let’s explore the sentiment and how true it is, no doubt you’re well aware but I feel it merits discussion.

The scene I am referring to of course is the ‘scaled down model of war’ in which humanity and zygonity(?) stand in the same room, opposite ends of a table with boxes they have been promised will either slay all their enemies or slay all their own people and they have no idea which button to press to do which. The Doctor supervises and tells them that this is how war works, you can fire the first shot but you can never guarantee who will die from it, in a war anyone can die, friend or foe, guilty or innocent. Of course, the Doctor knows this all too well, it’s revealed previously he ALMOST destroyed his home planet to save the universe with a similar device but we know how that worked out (Which I have mixed feelings about but let’s discuss that some other time). Both sides think there is no hope of peace and forgiveness and the Doctor tells them to stop being petulant children and just try to forgive one another, which he manages to make happen by erasing the memories of the human representative and telling the Zygon one they now have a chance to make amends, which they do. The Doctor’s speech is very important to this turning point, in how war achieves nothing and those who wage it never see past the ‘kill the bad guys’ stage, so rarely is the peace at the end given much thought and that pain does not justify the infliction of pain, it should instead inspire someone to be better and channel that suffering into making a better world. Very true, lest we forget that this is the sentiment Robin Williams held close to his chest in life, he suffered in silence because rather than unleash his pain in angry outbursts and scorn, he made people laugh constantly so people could see him and feel better, not worse.

I think perhaps Remembrance Sunday is often seen as hero worship, in that we pay our respects to the fallen and the brave deeds they achieved ┬ábut we forget that war is not glamorous, it is a terrible folly that claims the lives of soldier and civilian alike. Beyond the war poetry and Hollywood films, this wasn’t all a tale of tragic heroism, this was a tale of a few politicians and greedy people convincing generations of good young men to go kill themselves in order to resolve arguments. Harry Patch, the last Fighting Tommy, said this on the matter:

“I feel then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising legalised mass murder”

Now I think the Doctor would stand in agreement with Harry, except perhaps minus the guns but this is what war should come down to – actual discussion. If you, a politician or monarch or whatever, declare war, you aren’t bravely opposing a fascist, you are telling the world that you are prepared to sacrifice legions of innocent lives to prove a point and get your way. Ultimately, war costs us lives of guilty and innocent men and women and it is sad to think that war and aggression is what drives the advancement of technology, we are getting better and better at killing each other to the point now it can be done with a button. If you want true bravery, true bravery is being the one who lowers their weapon first and extends a hand to say enough is enough. As the Doctor says, cruelty only begets more cruelty, a vicious cycle that will go on and on until we kill everyone, it was true then and it is now – we haven’t plans for Syria once we bomb the everloving hell out of it or else the world would’ve been prepared for the refugees, the Syrian government hasn’t a clue how to restore their nation once the rebels stop, the rebels haven’t thought much further than revolution and ISIS’s train of thought boils down to “Fuck everyone”. We are achieving nothing but destruction and the people in power act like they are so brave for opposing ISIS, hardly realising ISIS was a demon of their own creation and their bravery extends as far as carpet bombing the innocent in hopes of killing the wicked amongst them. 200,000 people have died over the four years of war in Syria, 4,000,000 more have become refugees and I can assure you, those are not all terrorists that died and those are not scrounging thieves that fled.

War is the ultimate in human folly, it is the worst thing we do to ourselves and to one another, to call it brave is to romanticise the mass execution of our fellow men and women. Whilst we have moved beyond wars fought over family feuds and flags being put up where they aren’t welcome, we still wage war over political disputes and religious disagreements, things that we should really resolve through discussion, or perhaps even, leaving each other alone if needs be. I hold no power, I cannot gather the world leaders in a Doctor Who scenario and get them to settle it that way but oh how I wish I could. The greatest warrior of all is the one who chooses to end a war, rather than wage it until death.

2014 Retrospective

Trigger Warnings – Mentions of suicide/depression, related to Robin Williams

2014 was a pretty full year, granted it’s not quite done yet but I’ll be damned if I’m waiting to the very last second for every single morsel of news and trivia to include in here. I had originally thought of making a month by month Charlie Brooker-esque look back at the news of the year – media, films, business, politics, technology, war – all that jazz and more but my god was there a lot to cover, far too much to squeeze into my usual article length. I mean, when I look back at the year, it feels like it went on forever, not like 2013 which sorta came and went for me at least.

A strange year, we lost many great names and we saw twerks and jerks all over our News Feeds – Russell Brand became a ‘revolutionary’, the battle for equality escalated tremendously with victories for Gay Marriage cropping up across the US, Scotland voted on independence, photos were hacked and made global, cinemas cowered from cyber threats, Rocket Raccoon became a recognisable character to the mainstream and we learnt the dark truths behind some famous faces of yesteryear. So much to cover on one little blog, some of it I only really rediscovered in my research and was surprised at how recent things had been and just how much had happened. I’ll cover what I can, in brief summary.

So globally, the most searched names were those of Robin Williams, Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian. Robin Williams being one of the most tragic losses, at least to me and to the public community, and he served as a reminder as to the truth of depression – that outward appearances do not portray inner feelings for this man who brought nothing but joy felt such intense sadness and pain inside that it eventually overcame him, that’s a blog post in itself, something I can relate to, but I’ll leave it be for now. Jennifer Lawrence, of course, was constantly in the public eye for her various film appearances in the likes of Hunger Games films and X-Men First Class, as well as being a victim of the nude photo hack scandal. To clear up my stance on that one, she’s a victim and no she shouldn’t have just not taken the pictures of herself, that’s like saying if you don’t want to be robbed, don’t own valuables, victims are victims, criminals are criminals, stop blurring the lines. Yes, leaving a door unlocked will let a burglar into the house more easily but I can walk post a door and not open it, if someone goes ahead and walks in where they’re not invited, they need to be punished accordingly, we shouldn’t shrug and say it was inevitable. As for Kim, Kim tried to ‘break the internet’ by posing naked on a magazine cover, apparently forgetting the internet already knows what she looks like naked. I heard talk of it being brave or bold or stupid or whatever, I just shrugged, it was the least spectacular bit of ‘news’ I’d ever read, it’s why I’d never even considered doing an article on it – I refuse to make my blog into a celebrity gossip dump.

In film, we had the undying popularity of Frozen linger on well into Christmas this year, so much so various shops had to enforce maximum budgets on customer purchases for Frozen merchandise, we had Guardians of the Galaxy make Marvel a shit ton more money than they already had, there were Hobbits and Ninja Turtles all over the place, Lego became a film… somehow, Divergent joined the roster of “Dystopian teen fiction made into long running Hollywood money machine” novels, and we learnt that Benedict Cumberbatch REALLY can’t say penguins and that apes can outmatch the military. A lot of good films, a lot of not so good films, a lot of films I meant to watch and didn’t but the most part of it was “You know what we need? A team of characters standing around in epic poses whilst stuff explodes, it made Marvel rich, it must be the key to immortality or something” – so much so the freakin’ Penguins of Madagascar parodies the scene with the penguins stood in the trademark everyone-is-here-let’s-stand-back-to-back position and their leader saying to hold the position until maximum coolness is achieved. I still have a lot of these films to catch up on, Big Hero 6 looks fun, definitely need to see The Theory of Everything and wouldn’t mind giving some of the others a go just to say I have done. Of course, there was the fiasco with The Interview, which has been resolved with online releases, though there is a discussion in that for another day maybe.

World news, the big charity pushes this year were the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that every fucker and their nan took part in and the fight against Ebola, which America handled by saying “OH GOD NO AFRICANS WILL KILL US ALL, EBOLA IS EVERYWHERE!” whilst actual charities worked hard to clear up the damages and the rumours. We heard news reports on wars and conflicts across the globe, so much so it all sort of blurred into one horrid mess for people who didn’t follow these things, myself included. Conflicts in Gaza, Israel, Crimea, Ukraine, it became this endless stream of human beings just doing horrid stuff to one another and I daren’t even step on the subject because I just didn’t read up on it, it passed me by, I’m sure it did for most of you – the advantages of our lifestyles huh? We have our complaints and financial insecurity but there are considerably less guns and explosions in Shrewsbury, I’ll give you that much. In my neck of the woods, UKIP enjoyed a surge in support, much to my disgust, but at least the Greens did too. Scotland had their vote on independence and said it wasn’t for them, which to me is a wise decision, Britain as a whole barely stays afloat, breaking chunks off won’t do anyone any favours. Yes, that’s very brief and vague, so what?

Ugh, my gosh, over a thousand words, barely scratched the surface. I haven’t covered ISIS or Ferguson or the Sochi Olympics or Peaches Geldof or Conchita Wurst or… do you see my point? A lot happened this year, it’s impractical for a man of my limited resources to go into these things in one go so maybe this post will jog some memories of “Oh yeah, that happened” and start a few discussions. Truth be told, in this modern age, our attention spans are short, things don’t stay relevant very long – try it, do an ice bucket challenge now, see who gives a flip. Come 2015, we’ll have forgotten most of this year, I’ve certainly forgotten most of 2013 and 2012 before that. Anyway, perhaps slightly more interesting, tomorrow I’ll do a review of 2014 for me as a person rather than parroting Google searches. I have a lot to say there and it’ll be my way of signing off this year, letting it go

Letting it go… let it go… oh fuck

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Glory Be To The Fallen – Remembrance Day Special

Trigger Warnings – Talk of war/death

I wanted to do a post to honour this day of Remembrance Sunday in which we commemorate the First and Second World Wars and all the lives that were lost in the name of freedom and the end of tyranny, the brave men and women that sacrificed themselves to make the world a better place and how we wear the poppy as it was the flower that grew upon the battlefields after the First World War, a poetic contribution from nature in how beauty can return to a world ravaged by war if we only look for it. I have conflicting views on the idea of wearing a poppy, some say it is a symbol that has come to encompass the wars in the Middle East that aren’t so cut and dry as “These guys are evil, we have to stop them being evil” and as such, politicians justify their wars by making pretty speeches about honour and patriotism, whilst others say the poppy doesn’t stand for the innocent lives, only the soldiers and generals, as if romanticising and idolising a history of bloodlust into heroics when it was more a feud between individuals that cost the masses their lives. I don’t know what to feel for whilst I’m left-winged and very anti-war, I’m very much in support of the efforts of armed forces, past and present, and I am a patriot deep down.

War is often seen as romantic and poetic and as an artist myself, I can see, heck I grew up with war stories colouring my impressions of humanity and in these tales of ancient heroes and warriors I saw the noblest of traits – sacrifice, duty, honour, principle – traits we may not say in our day to day lives. The soldiers tell the tragic tale of the pointlessness of their fight, how they must kill men with whom they bear no quarrel for the sake of fat old men they’ve never met and that no matter how bloody the war, it is the poor men who had no desire for this conflict that must die, never the generals or the leaders, only ever the men out in the field. Religion, land, freedom, war has come to mean many things for many people and is as true of humanity as breathing and eating, it is what separates us from beasts is our brilliance at killing each other.

So what does this poppy mean? Is it really a touching memoriam to the fallen heroes or is it glorifying death and sacrifice when really we should think of the war as a great shame brought upon us by corruption and greed? Are the soldiers brave or stupid for dying for such men? What of the innocent, do they not deserve remembrance? I will never approve of war, though I read the stories and admire the men, it saddens me to my very core that such great men had to die for the world to progress and even now, many good people die and the world still insists on this cycle of hatred and ignorance. I think of the British people saying how their grandfather didn’t die to make Britain a home for Polish people, no, your grandfather died to fight against people who didn’t believe in freedom and equality for all, your grandfather died shooting racism in the face because it had no place in the world and his sacrifice was to keep Britain free of tyranny, not immigrants. I have no right to say this but I honestly think if my grandfather were here today, it would not be the growing racial diversity that troubled him, it would be the unbelievable class divide and the fact that we haven’t seemed to have learned much since then when it comes to the whole let’s-not-kill-each-other-en-masse deal.

The poppy, therefore, to me, means what the wearer interprets it as meaning and this is where I must stand against my left-wing allies and actually exercise some national pride. Patriotism is no bad thing, it’s nice to support your country but what led so many to oppose Hitler was when he started thinking his country deserved more than others did, when a man was willing to kill in the name of racial prejudice and hatred to create a white super race. I wear a poppy, and I’ve decided on that, as it is not a glorification of war and sacrifice, it is a way to say you remember the lessons that history tried to teach us and that in our heart, you wish for a world in which we no longer bear arms against one another. I wear the poppy as a way of saying a silent thank you to the men and women who died for us and no those soldiers didn’t die for glory, for the war, for medals, they died because they believed in something so strongly they would rather give up their life than give up what that belief meant to them and in anyone, British, German or whatever, that is admirable, so many of us talk big but when confronted with death, we would buckle, we would cry and beg and sell our souls but these people – they flipped the bird to the reaper because they did their part and that was what mattered

Soldiers are heroes but not because they fought in the war and fought the good fight that the posters told them was glorious or because they killed their enemies in bloody conquest and became decorated veterans, soldiers are heroes to me because for the most part they are good people. Sure, there are exceptions, there are bad examples of any kind of person and some people, when given a gun, are not as responsible as they should be, but these people saw something that mattered more than their own well-being and were ready to do anything to make it a reality. Fathers, brothers, sons – they didn’t fight because they wanted to kill people, they fought because they wanted to ensure a safe future for their mothers, sisters and daughters, for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren, they fought for peace and freedom. However, all sacrifices made are worthy of note and so not only are the soldiers heroes, the innocent must be remembered and mourned, the fathers who outlived their sons, the children who never played in the streets, the people who died simply for their religion or sexuality, all must be remembered and mourned

The reason we remember them is not just out of grief and mourning, or out of duty and honour to those who died that we might live, we remember them because we must be inspired by them to create a world in which we need never again cry for those who died for us, we must constantly strive to make a better world, a without war, the very world warriors die in an effort to create. Remember them, mourn them, be inspired by them and let no more names be added to their ranks