from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

heroics & Syria

Today's debate in the Commons feels like a big one. Although I stand with Corbyn (as, it appears, does a very high percentage of the British public), I've been interested to listen at some length to all the considerations put forward by different politicians and commentators. I don't think this is a clearcut issue, and there is no 'right' answer.

Of course we need a concerted effort against ISL. I just believe we should at the very least be genuinely seeking multi-nation political and diplomatic solutions, and be looking immediately for ways to check the flow of arms, money, and oil revenue towards ISL (not to mention addressing as a matter of urgency the radicalisation of young people).

Is there such a thing as a just war? If so, what are the criteria, and who decides which situation fits?

I can't imagine how the current proposal can do anything other than provoke even worse situations, and the number of civilian casualties is bound to be grotesque, given ISL's embedding within towns and cities.

Does anyone really believe that such an intervention will result in jihadists saying 'OK then, you win', and walk away into subdued lives of quiet desperation?

And after the bombing – what then?

And why is nobody incorporating the perspective put forward here?

Mostly, the discussions between opposing factions of parliament have been civil and reasonable. Cameron's exhortations to MPs to come over to the dark side, though, hit a very different note when he resorted to calling Labour members 'terrorist sympathisers'. Suddenly this looks like comic-book politics, though there's nothing either funny, trivial or light about what's at stake.

What I mean is it's suddenly a case of the 'blood being up', as they say, along with the testosterone levels: Cameron wants, or at least has tunnel-vision vis à vis war, and bombing, and what was a perfectly well-argued case seems to have morphed, or rather degenerated, into Boys' Own heroics and name-calling.

Mr Cameron, you may just have done yourself a big disfavour. Let's hope.

Gandhi's words about an eye for an eye being a terrible way to blind the world are as relevant to the bigger picture, of course, as ever.

George Monbiot is, as always, a passionate and intelligent voice on this:


  1. I'm afraid much of today's politics re: Syria/ISL etc. are driven, at its deepest level, of a sense of powerlessness.

    You know you don't want to put boots on the ground and clear this area and even if you did you know - despite rhetorics to the contrary in the press - that they'd just pop up elsewhere. Like if you invaded Italy to 'defeat' all Catholics ...

    But you feel you have to show resolve ... power ... and so you bomb and talk tough in front of cameras.

    I have an eerie feeling of deja vu here. Just reading about Nixon's failed bombing campaign of Cambodia. The president himself agreed that it didn't work by writing in the margin of a report on the war that its results had been "zilch". But still he authorized more bombing. Maybe because, it was felt, there was nothing else to do ... ?

    In the case of ISL, I'm intrigued about the 'containment'-option which I think you also mention (stopping flow of arms, etc.). How could it be done (more?) Why aren't we doing it? Why are we just talking about bombs? I think our politicians owe us these answers. But maybe they are afraid to admit they don't really have them either ...

  2. Christopher, it's very good to hear from you again. Thank you.

    And now the bombing action is a 'done deed'.

    I agree re a sense of powerlessness (and fear).

    I really don't mean to sound sexist, but I can't help wondering how it might all look if more women were Heads of State. (What would Aung San Suu Kyi's response be, for instance?)

    Of course, I've no idea what the 'right' response is (I mean 'should be'). As you say, presumably our politicians don't either. But it seems to me to be multi-faceted, and absolutely ought to incorporate as a matter of priority our examining our (the West's) arrogance and interference in our actions in eg the Middle East from the Crusades onwards (is it a surprise they're pissed off and disaffected? - though of course I'm not in any way condoning the way they express that, obviously), and surely no serious solution can be uncovered without diplomatic and dialoguic solutions.

    And yes, stopping the arms flow via Turkey, curbing oil revenue, extra attempts to help Muslims integrate into other cultures, public programmes for dialogue with groups and individuals, attention to how people are being radicalised as well as why, understanding as to the causes of jihadist grievance, a more compassionate attitude to the refugee crisis, supporting Muslims in ensuring that their clerics in positions of responsibility have a deep and balanced understanding of the original contexts and applications of the teachings of the Koran - I can't see how we can separate these things out, or ignore them, if we want to find a truly tenable solution.

  3. It's good to be here again, Roselle :-) I'll be blogging on yet another new blog and writing more new novellas as Chris Marcus in '16 and I do look forward to it. Then my boring other self can look for work to pay the rent LOL.

    Anyway, I do agree with pretty much all of your perspective on this - including the "sexist" :-) With problems such as this, I often end up having to review and affirm my own perspective because it seems to be the only one I can really change. Sure, I can vote differently or join a movement against war but both you and I are old enough to know that more general change will only come incrementally.

    We will only live long enough to see the small flowers, not the whole tree. The fall of the Berlin wall is the exception to prove the rule and yet - a more peaceful world demands a more holistic consciousness in a majority of its citizens. Otherwise most of the factors you mention as the true components of this particular conflict are ignored or compartmentalized or explained away for various reasons: greed, anger, fear, ideology, vested interests, and whatnot. In the minds and mouthes of voters, fighters, politicians and more ...

    And that just won't come overnight. But we can do our best to plant and nurture these seeds whereever we go, and hope we'll see a little bit more of the new tree come to life before we leave this planet.

    You know this and I know this and most of your readers know this, I believe. I merely mention it here because I found myself ready to write a 'political answer' - an analysis of where we went wrong in Syria (this time - could be many other places) and how to fix it. Ideally.

    Then I thought: 'Good riddance ... I can't ... '

    For I just arrived back from holidays and yuletide dinner conversations (and some arguments) with my family - because someone still does not accept that present climate change is human-made, another believing refugee boats in the Med harbor too many 'hidden' terrorists, and so on ...

    And they are representative of the majority. Not I.

    There's a long way to go, and it seems like the best thing I can do each day is to work with myself to accept this and then change the little bit that I can.

    Anyway, it's good to be back in the blogos - around other connection-minded people. That much I will allow myself to take joy in today. And perhaps it is enough for now :-)

  4. Christopher, what a lovely response. Uplifting and kind of saddening at the same time.

    And I'm completely with you in what you say in your penultimate paragraph - mostly; I do have still to quiet the crusader in me a lot. Ongoing practice.

    I think it's quite hard to keep the fires burning while not proselytising/putting people off through being too intense or dedicated - in my experience.

    We SO must not give up, and as you suggest, the blogosphere is good to find an extended sense of the human 'tribe' throughout the many many areas of the world instead of just in our little corner.

    That said, nurturing our little corner might be the heights of resistance.

    And your image of the flower rather than the tree was very helpful for me. Thank you for that.

    I should be interested for this blog, if you ever wish to write it, in what you have to say in an analysis of what went wrong in Syria?

    And meantime, let me know the URL for your new blog? And all power to your writing in 2016.

    Yes - let us not forget the joy to be had in connection, wherever we find it! :-)

  5. Amen to that, Roselle. And hey - if a 17-year old fashionista blogger can gain 17 million followers or so by posting pictures of her hairdos, I guess we have at least the potential power to start a movement that can take down one or two Berlin Walls :-)

    No, but seriously, it's a matter of perspective, isn't it? When I'm in my most serious mood I think that even if we could end Syria by some sudden surge of consciousness and real-political pressures in that area of the world, there would still be so many other dark spots.

    On the other hand, it's a bit presumptuous, isn't it - to put the whole world's state up as a yardstick for success in interconnectedness? Somewhere between the arrogance of communists of old and the exuberant naivety of student campaigners of today for some cause? I guess so. Less will do and should do. At least in our life times. We have already witnessed quite a few Good things ... (Walls falling come to mind again!).

    Anyway, enough about that. The as is the latest attempt of mine at blogging is just that: My "little corner" which I want to make into a big corner, given enough time and dedication. Somewhere people can go and get some uplifting perspective on life, the universe and everything, but in a very practical way.

    And if there is a situation that cannot be remedied, then I want to give some strength or other to help endure it.

    I think ... that's enough for me for now. And it feels good to be back on the blog. Very good indeed.

    See you there!

    1. You will have seen that I'd already found Stormlamp. Christopher, I really enjoy and value your contributions. Thank you.

      Here's to the web of it all...


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