I have been disturbed by a couple of mails I have received in the last few days. First off, I would just like to say that the attack on New York was easily the most shocking act of barbaric cruelty we have seen for many years. It is also obvious that it is going to be far reaching in it’s effects.
I also have to say that the American people are very largely innocent and as such did not deserve to be dealt such a terrible blow. I have to agree as well that Mayor Guiliani has been a pillar of strength for everyone in the city and for that matter, in the world. He has been everything you would want in a public official. He has been calm, informative, caring, thoughtful, articulate, and a pure gentleman. And our hearts have gone out to all the brave people we have seen toiling in such adverse conditions and emotional nightmares.
It has been inspiring for me to see, yet again, that when the chips are down, people will put their lives in serious danger in order to be in a position to rescue other people of whom they know nothing. This is a snapshot of the human being at it’s very best. The pure altruist.
Outside of that, there are a few other observations which all of us should be making. If we want to have any chance of stopping this kind of thing again, then there are certain things which we must encourage each other to be doing. We must ask SERIOUS questions of each other before we declare war on ANYONE… We all have a very good picture now of the nature of the people involved in committing this atrocity, but it is almost for certain that they don’t belong to anywhere we could indiscriminately bomb. Tomorrow.
Afghanistan is a place I dreamed of going to 20 years ago, precisely because it was a culture and an experience so completely removed from my own that it would have been like visiting a different planet. Right now it’s become a different galaxy. But hopefully not for the rest of my life.
I wrote ‘the black cloud of islam’ when it became obvious to me that islam had evolved into the same instrument of modern mass murder which christianity has been for so long. And in the name of virtually the same tin pot god. I would like to be far more profane at this point than I am being here and now but I feel the need to preserve as much dignity as I can in the present circumstance.
The ‘Crusades’ were a great excuse for elements of the so called ‘nobility’ of western europe to go off to the east in some vain hunt for the old ‘Jerusalem’ and the fictitious grail. What they did, bye the bye, was to get into the things they normally did under the umbrella of a ‘righteous’ war; things like rape, pillage and destruction. All in the name of god. To spell it out, so that no one is in any doubt, a ‘crusade’ is the western equivalent of ‘jihad’. A holy war. The crusaders were vicious, callous and ruthless. To the muslim world of the time they were ‘infidels’, (unbelievers), and it would have been painfully obvious that they were on the usual godless adventure to the east which had been pursued since well before Mohammed. Folk memory is long. The muslim world didn’t forget…….
George Bush Jnr. obviously didn’t even know….. and he’s the president and spokesman for the most powerful nation in the world. And I really do take exception to this; that the leader of such a powerful force should be largely ignorant of the rest of reality on the planet. And particularly of historical flashpoints. Regardless of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ he may be perceived to be by any faction. The leader of ‘The Free World’ should be able to be coherent, articulate and responsive to the whole world…… Bloody well regardless! And even regardless of the way in which he is perceptibly smiling his way through the biggest learning experience we’ve ever had the misfortune to have to watch anyone struggle through. AND I feel for him… because underneath that hardline cowpoke son of a gun off the old block, there would seem to be hints of a decent good ‘ol boy. Naive, but vulnerable, and willing; but I will always be watchful, because the leader of the free world is MY leader, and he is yet in the pocket of his father’s henchmen. And… why oh why did he allow himself to be flown out of the action on the day… instead of doing what I would have done, which would have been to fly into the epicentre of it…. A minor boob perhaps, but we all noticed it. And thought that George Washington would have done the opposite.
And the same problems prevail. Regardless of the emotions of the moment, I will not allow Chaney houseroom. And WHAT is Rumsfeld? We have to ask. These men are in charge of whole areas of our lives. Perhaps the fittest man among the hegemony for the job would have been Powell. Questions have to be asked as to why he didn’t take the job on in the first place. We can guess… They didn’t think they had that much of a chance with his ‘image’, and young George was the nearest thing to a pop star among them. He may turn out well. who knows? certainly it is a cruel fact that he perhaps needed something like this to impress upon him the need to develop a foreign policy. The USA, as the leading economy in the world for the whole of the last century, was largely responsible for keeping ‘the free world’ free. Something like 58,000 people died in the London ‘Blitz’ alone, the year before Pearl Harbour. Pearl Harbour ensured that the war became a world war, and probably ended it quicker than would have been the case otherwise. For those few years there, The USA had a foreign policy, and but for ‘The Marshall Plan’ the recovery would have been much slower.
But then… it has to be said that the most powerful nation on earth has periods of having no foreign policy at all, and, after all, in the past the distances to and from the USA were big enough for the USA not to be that bothered. That’s been changing quite quickly for the last sixty years. On September 11th the distances were all closed to a few feet… and closing. America is forced to respond to the big events, and was pre-occupied with the cold war. The president is right to have identified this as a new kind of war, but only for America. Timothy McVeigh probably learned quite a bit from the explosion at Canary Wharf. And it isn’t “the first war of the century”. There are a lot of people who have died in warfare since January 1st 2000. There are at least five ongoing wars which I can think of at this moment.
As I said at the beginning of this piece… ‘there are a few other observations which all of us should be making’ at present. There hasn’t been a weapon invented which has never been used. The new generations of weapons are more deadly than ever. Most of the leaders and thinkers of the world have been trying to get the USA to sign treaties to ban the testing of nuclear weapons. Testing these weapons means that more weapons grade material is created to make more weapons. It is only a matter of time before these materials fall into the hands of people who hate the west. The same is true of biological and chemical weapons. The Bush administration has refused to get involved in any of these negotiations, perhaps mainly on the grounds that it impinges on US national sovereignty. In other words, if you’re part of an international treaty then you can be inspected by international inspectors. This is something which conservative republican thinking in the USA is absolutely opposed to. After all, how can you tell the difference between an inspector and a spy? And how dare they question our ethics and morals? In the land of John Wayne.
I think that now there may some kind of a re-think going on in Washington. There has to be. It’s as simple as that. We need the USA to be ready for the next strike. We don’t want them to be blown out of the water. They power the world we know and love. We don’t want to be on our own again, even if western europe is becoming integrated. Even if some of us would like to see it all torn down in favour of sailing ships and barter economies and the love of Gaia as she is. The US will have to either sign these treaties, or the world is going to be a very different place quite shortly. Eventually of course they will have to come to the table to address the emissions treaties as well. The meetings in Kyoto and Stockholm have been turned into farce by the demands of US domestic politics. The USA can practice this avoidance for a little longer yet, and so can China, and the rest, but that treaty is in the same stack of cards as the others. We have all known for some time that in the economic sense we have been living on borrowed time. We cannot continue to trash the world without we have some understanding of the consequences. The effects of as many Chinese owning cars per capita as Europeans and Americans may very well be climactically catastrophic. It’s a simple question. Do we want to live in the world as we know it?
We are all living beyond our means, and a re-distribution of wealth is beginning to happen. We may become poorer, but I would like to suggest that we may also become less grasping and more open. And it’s not before time that we really got down to really meaningful discussions with eachother. About today….. and tomorrow. The only way forward for humankind is to put away all the superstitious religious toys and talk to eachother openly and kindly. The accusing fingers should be put away along with dogma and doctrine. They are now archeology. We can keep bits of them for keepsakes, but we must now accept our responsibilities to our own species or perish in mindless storms of sectarian petulance.
In turn I have considered this dichotomy for a long time. Science versus Faith. Fact versus make-belief. In many ways it’s commendable that some people have consciously chosen to overide the pursuit of truth with that of fiction. The story is a powerful tool in the hand of the imagination. And who is to say that in the end, the story will not win out…. that the fiction will lead to some kind of universal and eternal union. But in my own mind, right here and now, I would prefer that I didn’t have to go out on someone else’s limb in an attempt to discover the world outside of me. In other words, I would prefer that the things that I had belief in were things that I could use my five senses to experience… along with perhaps combinations of them to make up a sixth…. but… I stray…
My real beef with islam is that once the religious fanatics had a real hold on the lives of the people, sometime after the eleventh century, all learning ground to a halt, and the only teachings available were almost all religious. So after some really solid scholarship, there followed the best part of a millennium of total darkness. A form of ignorance akin to the dogmatic foundations of the christian and hebrew faiths. Hence my metaphor ‘The Black Cloud Of Islam’. No one should be surprised. I thought that my wording was apt, and after all, my criticism of christianity goes much further than just the one song.
In taking down the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie they had impinged upon my life, my ability to operate in my own civilisation. I thought long and hard for days as to whether I should write the song or not. I really struggled with it, I’d had the experience of meeting many good muslim people, but in the end the reasons for writing it far outnumbered the reasons not to. Even after that I struggled with it, if only for the reason that it was not directed toward my own people, and therefore it could be construed as racist. I also realised that it would alienate my own establishment because without having open minds on it, which the establishment rarely has, it would just be viewed as a piece of prejudice.
But I was compelled to write and sing it, regardless of the cost to me personally, because I felt that it was true. I also realised that it was not the last time that this type of fanaticism would be visited on us. Anyone with half a brain could have told us that. And I said so.
I live in a fantasy too. Mine is that one day, someone, anyone, will someday listen to some of the things we on the outside of Pandoras goverment have been saying about humanity for the last three decades. I am not the only one who has been saying these things, but we ARE thin on the ground. Mine is couched in poetry and song, because I’m not really a political animal. And I have that kind of a mental flow. Mine is not to join a party to have a loud collective voice, which is then dissipated by a nominal leader. And though I speak through the gauze of poetry and I am often accused of being esoteric, it is a true, clear solo voice.
I regard religion itself as a plague. At best a collection of barriers to objectivity. Although in it’s milder forms it is benign, much of it is mental disease personified. I started to think like this when I was six years old. By the time I was 15 years old most of my ideas were fully formed. I can admire a way of life such as bhuddism offers, and I can have great respect for anyone with dignity and pacific bearing, but I cannot support the sheer lunacy of religious empire. Under any circumstances. The grand gnashing of the billion teeth of the dogs of faction and hate. Ritualised. Divide and rule.
Obviously I can see that any group of founding fathers and mothers would tend to want to socialise their belief systems, if only so that they could all do it together, go through the ritual of being tied to earth forces in congregation; to help to bind the social being. Be good mannered and not stand on eachother’s toes. To partly know what eachother were thinking about. To formalise a structure of rituals. A society. To converse. To give thanks to the earth. In the hope of bringing rain onto the earth. In the hope of calming storms. It is easy to see how superstition grows from such simple beginnings. It is very easy to see how superstition can eventually overrule rationale in the circumstances; given the nature of the the brain, the mind and the many multivarious stimuli. And hard times.
But haven’t we grown up now? Are we not so big on the planet at this stage to be able to encourage each other to develop a different social honesty? A real social cohesion. Would it not be a deal better to teach the children about life and death rather than pure fantasy as truth? I can see what this would mean for areas of the establishment which relies on people thinking that they need the prop of ‘a better place’ type of pie in the sky. But unless we own up to reality pretty damn soon we are doomed to suffer for a long time from absolutely unnecessary ideological warfare.
I have said this in many many ways over the last thirty odd years. Why does no one with any power ever agree. Why does no one in ‘power’ ever speak up? Because they don’t think that it is serious enough? Because they think that they’ll lose some votes? Because they think that the other religions are less serious than their own? Because they think that they have right on their side? Because they think that the vast majority would like to continue to believe…. long after it has become palpably obvious that to continue to do so is not only irrational but seriously dangerous; First of all to mental health, and now to physical health as well.
Our great leaders subscribe because perhaps they don’t want to be out of step with the rest of the world’s fantasy worship. They would be accused of being infidel. What an entirely horrible fate. To be cast out by the party. To be made to feel leprous. How on earth could they withstand such an inspection? Such marginalisation? In three words, they couldn’t. I will reluctantly agree that we need dedicated places to gather to honour the dead, the brave, the noble spirit; to stand for moments in recognition of eachother’s value…. or values. To congregate in accord for the need of kindred. What we can no longer do is to make these moments any less than universally understood. If we rely on dogma, we exclude… and we exclude our young family who need a level playing field. Dogma and doctrine may be places in the past on which we have built the structures for our understanding of the kind of ethics we would wish to convey, but they are now outmoded by the colossal impact of ongoing common knowledge. And the ways in which we have to deal with it. It’s no good explaining the chapter and verse of a football game to me when I can see what’s going on. After a few minutes, one size fits all.
Yes it’s ok to have your own little belief system, to wander off into the nether world of self for as many moments as you can grab in the day. To plant a rose to the memory of mother. To throw a bunch of leaves into the air in celebration of the cycle of life, or of lost friends. Or to pick wild grass for a loved one. Or to smile for a child.
But to become a complete 100% dreamer, dealing almost exclusely in fantasy, you will first need religion. A mildly extreme view of particularly any of the monotheistic religions on earth will be enough. The one form of human intercourse where anyone at all can be proclaimed to have the right answer. To be directly connected to the only true religious power. Politics can also be thrown into the pot to increase the stink, but superstition or fundamental religious belief is an absolute necessity. After that all you need is a simple plan….. To study the workings of an aircraft in order to fly it into a multitude of people causing serious devastation, carnage and loss of life is mental disease in it’s worst form. A manifestation of extreme fundamentalist religion. …and completely phony.
The American people did not deserve this cruel horror. My thoughts go out to them. I would hope that their government and the governments of the G8 will now start to address the causes for this vicious stupidity. They will find many in their own house. London may not have escaped this round yet. Treaties, dialogue and agreements on level playing fields are now the most important form of human interaction. There is nowhere to bomb. The first bomb dropped on any of the 7 million starving Afghani refugees will create more damage than was created 2 weeks ago in New York. And the effects will last longer. We can have a miracle here. Miracles are created by man, not figment. The spectre of god should be left at the door. With the shoes.
I’ve expected the bullet of ignorance through my chest for the last thirty years for saying these kind of things. It wont matter. one jot. To be continued…..
Copyright 2001 Roy Harper