To be reminded that you’re human….

May 19, 2016

Do not sigh for Lindbergh’s wonderful luck, but determine to emulate Lindy’s glorious pluck” wrote a young Lyndon Baines Johnson, passionate for what he perceived as a revived American spirit following the disaster of World War 1. In Lindbergh, Johnson saw not just the American spirit, but the human need to explore, the extraordinary feats of progress when deep ideological chains are replaced by politically ensured freedoms (advanced for the time period) combined with individual determination. 
Lindbergh’s achievement may seem so distant to those of us almost 100 years later, but that represents perhaps just two prior generations when the whole picture is examined. Indeed, my grandparents were born in that decade that saw the conquering of the Atlantic by flight, and my dad – not yet at retirement age – was born a decade before LBJ ascended to the Presidency on the death of Kennedy. In the time frame of human history, it is a click of the fingers.

Too often the religious are quick to mock the concept of human evolution from ape-like ancestors, as if it a negative. You’ll hear scorn poured on the idea that we “come from monkeys”. Ed Husain disappointed his legion of liberal fans recently by implying that Darwin’s discovery was necessarily racist (a bizarre conflation of morality and ethics, with nature, when no such thing exists). There is a desire in the mind of the parties of god to deny basic scientific fact if it happens to contradict their official origins story. Yet it is our ape-like ancestors whom we have to thank for everything. It is they who sparked the first controlled fires, it is they who left the safety of the jungle and crossed the World, it is they who purified water, it is they who created the tools that gave us a hunting advantage when threatened with daily starvation, it is they who against the odds fought the elements, came close to extinction & survived, it is they who created the first remedies, it is they who developed language and art, it is they who began to try to explain their place in the universe, contemplate the stars, harness the sun, and whose self awareness was the beginning of the universe trying to understand itself & who invented the gods that are now used to obscure their extraordinary achievements. From those ancestors, we have all the innovations that lead to Lindbergh, and to me sitting on a plane somewhere over France, watching the sunset from a vantage point that so few humans have ever had the privilege of seeing. Indeed, from early humans, to Roman republicans, from Homo Habilis, to Ben Franklin & Rousseau, such a small percentage of we apes have enjoyed this sight. From this vantage point, it is inconceivable to me that we would not honour those ancestors that out of necessity, created & conquered & gave us luxury.

And even if by some miracle, a thesis is produced that thoroughly disproved evolution, instead confirming the story of Adam & Eve, we still wouldn’t have them nor a god to thank for human progress. We’d have the devil snake that permitted free-thought to thank for our ingenuity and survival.

Perhaps our desire to explore comes from the same place as our desire to understand everything immediately (thus creating gods as quick and easy explanations). Perhaps our wonderful sense of touch that permits the wind to take our breath away or the sun in summer to revitalise us after a grey winter persuades us to seek those sensations. Perhaps our fear of death, of existing in a finite speck of time conflicts with our desire to know all and see all. I am now sat watching my fellow apes on the beach with a spectacular view of the Meditarranean sea, the jagged rocks with layers of history, the buildings we have created across the shoreline, the clear and cold water reminding me that I’m alive as it crashes against my legs, placating that desirous sense of touch, and at the back of my mind is the theme that runs through human history, from the moment our species burst onto the tapestry of life right through to Lindbergh & beyond; at some point – any point – I will cease to exist, and never see this beautiful picture, nor feel the sea breeze nor the waves against me again. And so I need to experience it all now. 

Advertisements

Is it anti-Semitic? A handy guide…

May 12, 2016

Today, it is Israel’s birthday.
As you can imagine, this means everyone will lose their shit very quickly. Especially as I continue….. Israel, despite its questionable, quasi-religious and often violent origins (of which, many nations have a similar background), has managed to survive 68 years of invasions, rockets fired daily at it, threats to wipe it off the map, racist attitudes on the far-right and the far-left, a refusal for many of its critics to criticise the Islamist fascists on its doorstep. But it’s survived. Survived with a stable democratic settlement, and whilst I take issue with right winged Israeli policy in the West Bank, designed as I think it seems to be, to derail a two state solution (and certainly an insane way to ensure security for Jewish folk), I find my fellow liberal lefties often crossing the line from criticism of Israeli government policy, into repeating centuries of anti-Semitic blood-libel, conspiracy nonsense, or a refusal to accept a Jewish right to self determination 68 years later, whilst fighting for everyone else’s right to the same. So here’s my handy guide to what I believe to be that line.

Criticism of Israel:

  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution, not making Israeli’s any safer, and should stop.

Anti-Semitism:

  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…. and let’s deport Jews to the US! Problem solved! (here).
  • I think the Israeli Government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…….. and Hamas – the group that seeks a Theocratic settlement, and is derived from the Muslim Brotherhood’s flirtations with Nazism, still using the Protocols of Zion in its literature, with a Charter that rejects peace initiatives unless the entire region is handed to its religion, and meanwhile indiscriminately hurl rockets at homes and schools in Israel – are dedicated to peace, social justice, and the good of all Palestinians (here).
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…. And the media is run by Zionists (those who don’t query Israel’s right to exist)! Forget that the media doesn’t question any other country on the planet’s right to exist either, they should only be labelled for not querying Israel’s right to exist.
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…….. and if I use the word ‘Zionist’ instead of ‘Jews’ whilst using centuries-old conspiracy theories surrounding secretive Jewish control of media, eduction, and governments, everyone will think it’s legitimate criticism rather than regurgitating anti-Semitic tropes.
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution……. and Hitler – the man responsible for wiping out 6,000,000 Jews –  was actually a Zionist (the support for a Jewish right to self determination) because he once supported the desperate attempt by persecuted Jews to leave Germany. Motives are irrelevant, just repeat ‘Ha’avarra’ and send a link to a Wikipedia article to prove it!
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…… and whilst we’re on ‘self determination’, we will argue for the right to self determination for all peoples – including those whose revolutionary leaders are illiberal, anti-Secular, anti-democratic , far-right, homophobic, misogynistic Theocrats with no intention of empowering anyone but themselves – but absolutely not for Jews.
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution……and ISIS are created by the great Jewish global conspiracy to create ‘Greater Israel’ across the entire  Middle East (here).
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution…… And it’s perfectly reasonable to use Holocaust Memorial Day to 1) Complain that we focus on this one holocaust, and 2) use it to imply that Israelis are the new Nazis, committing a genocide in Palestine.
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution……. so let’s boycott Israel, completely ignore any racism or violence coming from Palestine, defend that racism and violence if someone brings it up, ignore the Arab press continually characterising Jews as rats, and not even entertain the notion of boycotting nations involved in any other land dispute across the Planet – like Pakistan in the Baloch region – just the one dispute the pesky Jews are involved in.
  • I think the Israeli government’s settlement policy in the West Bank is derailing a two state solution……. And we shall only use the term ‘apartheid’ daily, to refer to Israel. Absolutely never to refer to any of the surrounding states that are religious supremacist in nature, privilege heterosexuality whilst punishing homosexuality (some may call this sexuality apartheid, but that’s us applying ‘Western values’ …. which I think we’re supposed to call ‘Colonial’), outlaw criticism of state power, punish apostasy, and disenfranchise women.

Here is the crux; One can criticise Israeli policy, indeed one can argue with evidence that the way Israel was birthed represented an injustice against local populations, without implying apartheid, genocide, excusing & defending anti-Jewish thugs, how Hitler helped Jews, utilising centuries of anti-Semitic myths of Jewish global conquest, shipping Jews to another country, wishing for Jewish self determination to collapse, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, giving the media a name for not questioning Jewish self determination but not giving a name to the media for not questioning any other self determination anywhere in the World. It really is a simple distinction. However, if you do decide to descend into anti-Semitic absurdity, do not then tantrum, playing the victim of a vast Jewish media conspiracy when you’re called out on its blatant bigotry.