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

Saturday, 26 March 2011


I am in some conflict between wanting to speak of the good things in the world – in this case spring, here in the UK, doing its thing year after year with no help from us; and on a personal level the micro-eco-system we have going for us here in our South Devon organic garden – and feeling that the continuing global crises, currently focused on the Arab states and Japan, cannot be ignored. Perhaps tomorrow, if I have a chance to think about blogging, I'll give over to the cause of also seeing what's right with the world... (But I may be offline for a little while as I leave early on Monday for the sublime wild reaches of Wester Ross in Scotland, before travelling to the magical Isle of Iona in the Hebrides where I'm leading a course next week.)

OK, Libya. Qaddafi is using state television to incite violence; has posted the following: 'In 1994, Hutu state radio played a massive role in the Rwandan genocide, inciting violence and giving directions on how and where to kill Tutsis. Right now in Libya, Gaddafi is using state television much the same way. As a weapon. On his three state-run stations, supporters are urged to hunt the opposition “alley by alley, house by house, room by room.” It's been reported that state programming is used to send coded instructions to loyalists and hired mercenaries.' which, like, has seen a number of victories due directly to its online campaigning, has a petition circulating to close down Libyan state television:

As for our involvement, it's hard to know what is 'just' (in the sense of 'justified') intervention. The New Statesman this week spoke of the 'Responsibility to Protect', formulated by the International Convention on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001, after the Balkan and Rwandan genocides. The principle behind this is sound: 'Every country has the responsibility to protect its own citizens from mass killings and other ethnic cleansing. If a country is unwilling or unable to do so, the international community has a responsibility to launch military intervention.' (Gareth Evans, co-chair; quoted by Mehdi Hasan.) Well, OK, with some pacifist reservations.
    The difficulty, as I see it, lies in two things: one, the international interventionists' motivation; and two, the interpretation of the six criteria laid out in the commission's case for intervention:
just cause
right intention
last resort
proportional means
reasonable prospects
right authority.

Surely there are two at least, and three probably, of those clauses that are not met?

Right intention: why is it that, of the many dictatorships worldwide, and the serious crimes against humanity being committed in eg Yemen, Gaza, Bahrain, Cote d'Ivoire, Sudan, it has been Libya that we've chosen? Am I being unduly cynical (after Iraq) in thinking that Libya has oil; unlike say Israel and possibly Iran Libya does not have a nuclear capacity with which to defend itself; and Libya is headed by a dictator who is not 'a friendly dictator' in terms of his usefulness to the West? Yemen and Cote d'Ivoire, with their own grave humanitarian crises, have been fruitlessly pleading with the international community for help. Gaza could have done with a no-fly zone for the last 40 years. What is our intention, genuinely?

Proportional means: in the first day of 'our' intervention, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched by the intervening forces. Each one costs, according to the NS – get this – £800,000. Yes, that's right. Maths is not my strong point, but that's one hell of a lot of money: £89,600,000, my calculator says.

And you look at the humanitarian crisis in Japan:

'While the rest of the world focuses on the damaged nuclear facilities at Fukushima, radiation is the least of their worries for many people in Japan. Homeless, numb with grief and shock, and with neither food nor shelter, thousands of refugees are struggling to survive in sub-zero temperatures as emergency shelters are crowded out and there is nowhere else for them to go. Their concerns are much more immediate and centre on the basic essentials needed for survival, like food, water and fuel.

'“The growing infant health crisis that has already led to deaths is what concerns me now," continued Ed. "It's amazing that two weeks later there are still pockets that are getting no help. There is a huge tragedy emerging as some areas are ignored while aid goes past to more well-known spots.

'“Words don't describe it,” he said. “It's total and absolute carnage.”

'“Shock and trauma are high, of course. People are just stunned. In one village we visited, 3 people survived, out of 300, after sheltering in a gym...'

Now look at the cost of that first Tomahawk drop on Libya in that light... £89,600,000 could go a long way.


  1. It's difficult to know where to go with a feeling of powerlessness. Is it best to retreat to examine the essence of those feelings like in the rain maker story or do I get on the street and join the rebellion? Is the dialogue of the soul a mere distraction from the reality of worldwide chaos? Is there a general distrust of political leaders? I see the film coverage of Japan and I think of Cormac McCarthy's book 'The Road.' This wheel's on fire.

  2. Thanks Brian. Maybe at such times it's even more imperative to have, and to sustain, the dialogue of the soul? And still - and still - it can't take us away from the world, can it? - Surely we have to find a way to be in the world, with what's happening, and to contribute fruitfully, without giving up or being disempowered through fear and hopelessness? And without making the mistake of thinking this is the only reality? - It's hard to hold these two things in 'creative tension' but I guess we have to try... Doesn't so much depend too on our intention and motivation - and our willingness to face others' suffering as well as our own?


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