2014

We celebrate New Year, wish each other a happy one, etc. but of course it is just a completely arbitrary number and date. The New Year could start on any day in 365, and although 2014 is supposed to relate to the birth of Christ he wasn’t born in December anyway.

It is also illogical to assume that because we’ve started a new cycle of 365 (or 366 in a leap year) days that it will be any better or worse than the last year.

As for changes which occur in fashions, etc. these rarely seem to correlate with the way we number the decades and centuries. For instance, the 19th Century didn’t really end till after the First World War, and 20th Century innovations like the jazz age, flappers, etc. kicked off in the 1920s.

The 1940s culturally went on till well into the 1950s, at least in UK, with rationing, austerity, etc., while the 1950s popular music continued until 1963 with the advent of The Beatles and British long-haired groups.

In fact I’ve noticed that changes in fashions, etc. rarely coincide with a new decade, and usually become apparent about the middle of any decade. Certainly rock’n’roll burst upon the world scene around 1955 although there were many recordings now considered early rock’n’roll in the USA well before that, going back to the late 1940s.

So what lies ahead in 2014? Well much the same as in previous years. I don’t expect anything vastly different, as any changes which occur in human behavior, etc. are very gradual. People will be born, others will pass on, no doubt we’ll have the usual highs and lows.

We were told by many who didn’t think the world was going to end on December 21st 2012, that 2013 was the start of a new era of Enlightenment. I can’t say I’ve noticed, but certainly there is a process of new ideas going on helped to a large extent by the exchange of ideas worldwide thru the Internet.

The old organized religions are slowly giving way to new ideas where science and what was previously regarded as religion or mysticism become confused. Many people are now non-specific about their beliefs. So we hear about some sort of universal consciousness rather than ‘God’ and a widespread belief in spirituality and survival of death, rather than the old idea of Heaven and Hell.

Science is also less clear-cut than it seemed to be, not least because Quantum Physics and things like String Theory seem almost mystical in their implications.

What I do believe is that the 21st Century (according to our current method of recording the passing of time) will be a period of quite revolutionary discoveries in the twin areas of science and what was previously regarded as the domain of religion. Both orthodox science and orthodox religion have to give way to new ideas based on the evidence constantly being uncovered.

However 2014 or any single year will not herald any dramatic change, as these things happen very gradually. New ideas and concepts are rarely accepted overnight, they take years or even longer to gradually become the accepted norm.

Hopefully exposures of corruption, etc. will continue in the next year or so, and more people will become enlightened as to the true nature of things both related to this planet and in the more spiritual aspects.

 

Flawed Icons and Political Betrayals

So many, perhaps all, of the human icons who are praised or even worshiped are flawed, which is hardly surprising since none of us are perfect.

Thinking of political figures there’s Nye Bevan, darling of the Labour Left, who seriously blotted his copybook by stating that we could not let ‘a British Foreign Secretary walk naked into the conference chamber’, a very perverse and convoluted argument for keeping the British Bomb so we had something to give up at multilateral disarmament talks. It was, in fact, a betrayal of the Left and unilateralism; Britain giving up its nuclear weapons as an example to other states.

Clem Attlee, who did so much in the post-war Labour government to build a better Britain. He took coal, steel, the railways  and the public utility companies into public ownership, established the Welfare State, the National Health Service and gave independence to many countries, ending the British Empire. However he was the Prime Minister who made sure Britain got the atomic bomb, so again the Leftwing credentials of a Labour politician was very seriously undermined.

You would have expected Sir Bertrand Russell, the humanist philosopher who led first the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as its only President, and then the break-away direct action Committee of 100, both totally opposed to nuclear weapons, to have had a clean slate. Not so. He advocated the atomic bombing of the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, or at least threatening to do so to stop the USSR from obtaining the Bomb.

Going back further we have Lenin who promised ‘all power to the soviets’, but he and Leon Trotsky, that darling of the extreme Left, betrayed the revolution long before Stalin became General Secretary by crushing the Kronstadt rebellion which sought to preserve the original ideas and ethics of the Great October Socialist Revolution. The bureaucratic dictatorship in the Soviet Union and the crushing of even Socialist alternatives and opposition parties (leading later to Stalin’s purges) started under the leadership of Lenin, and Trotsky as head of the Red Army crushed the Kronstadt sailors’ rebellion against this fledgling bureaucratic dictatorship, thus laying the groundwork for Stalin and his rule of terror, and ultimately, the total collapse of the Marxist dream of a Communist utopia, or even of achieving the Socialist stage of Karl Marx’s future society.

Then we have Nelson Mandela, the man once labeled as a ‘terrorist’ who later became President of his country, ending apartheid. Surely he was untainted? I’m not so sure. The fact is all these years since the African National Congress achieved power in the Republic of South Africa, with Mandela as the first ANC President, there is still massive disparity between the rich whites and the many poor blacks, which is economic apartheid. Only a relatively few rich blacks, many part of the ruling clique, have really benefited economically. Then we have his ex-wife Winnie who was accused of being involved in the torture and murder of many people, including Stompie Moekets. It was Winnie who made a notorious speech about freeing the nation ‘with our necklaces’, which meant burning people alive by putting tires soaked in petrol around their necks. Although he divorced Winnie, I’m not convinced he made a clear denunciation of this appalling statement, nor am I convinced he made what would have been a very influential contribution to the HIV/AIDS controversy in South Africa when successor ANC administrations denied HIV was a cause of AIDS,  which set back the fight against the virus.

John F. Kennedy may be regarded as a liberal by many, but he led the USA into the disastrous Vietnam War, which included the horrific napalming of Vietnamese citizens. He is also the President who brought the world close to nuclear war over the Cuba Missile crisis. Although USA had nuclear missiles just across the Soviet border in Turkey, he hypocritically created a huge crisis when U.S. satellites and spy planes spotted Soviet nuclear missile silos being constructed in Cuba. Far from Krushchev climbing down, the reality is Kennedy too had to back down and withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey before Krushchev agreed not to send the missiles to Cuba. Of course Kennedy, this great ‘liberal’, was also the President who ordered the disastrous ‘Bay of Pigs’ attempt to overthrow the Castro government in Cuba. Whatever he may have been in domestic politics, JFK was most certainly NOT a liberal in his foreign policies. He, more than anyone else in the world, almost brought the world to nuclear disaster. A recent report said only the action of a Soviet submarine officer prevented this, when this man refused to agree to pushing the nuclear button when his comrades had already agreed to do so.

Having worked in certain leftwing peace and human rights organizations, relying on donations from the general public, I know of the terrible waste of money and how some of the people in these organizations take huge handouts when they leave, and when they are on missions stay in top quality hotels, often demanding first-class travel to get there. A certain respected black civil rights leader in the USA stayed with his entourage in a top London hotel, I was quite shocked when I had to deliver something to him there.

The whole Communist movement was corrupted by opportunists and careerists who usurped the original aims of Marxism, setting back the cause of Socialism for decades at least.

It seems there are very few human icons who are free from serious flaws, and it also seems that power corrupts even if that power is limited to having a bit of money raised by donations to squander.

Is it any wonder I am disillusioned with politics as a whole? Nick Clegg going into coalition with the Tories and completely abandoning his pledge to find an alternative to ‘like-for-like’ replacement of Trident, not to mention jettisoning many other Liberal Democrat policies, is just the latest betrayal of the British electorate.

Oh, and let’s not forget the ‘Gang of Four’ who stabbed the Labour Party in the back when Michael Foot was leader by setting up the SDP, so splitting the leftwing vote and letting Thatcher in again. One of the greatest betrayals in British political history!

At least we know what the Tories stand for, but Liberal Democrats and Labour politicians just seem to be Tories in disguise, not least Tony Blair who adopted practically all of Margaret Thatcher’s disastrous policies. How on Earth did he ever get admitted to the Labour Party?

However there is hope. At long last an attempt is being made to unite the Left with a new Party, which just had its inaugral Conference. Ken Loach is one of the comrades who helped launch this new Party, and the first Conference decisions are very encouraging. I have joined the Party and hope to be able to vote for its candidates in future elections. I hope many on the Left of the Labour Party also see fit to join us as, sadly, Labour is no longer a Socialist party and no longer defends the working-class.

 

Gone but not forgotten

A  bit of nostalgia here with people and places from my past.

First, the parties we used to have on New Year’s Eve and at other times throughout the year. Now most of the regular people who attended have passed on, including the joint host, my life-partner George. The guests who have passed on include Brian, Noel, Sheila, Lenny, Freddy (Freda – who always did a cabaret in drag), Roy and Marianne. Probably passed away as elderly and not heard of for years are Stanley, Bob and Patricia. Good times.

Places I have visited which no longer exist under those names/administrations include former Yugoslavia and at least 4 of its former 6 republics, the USSR and three of its Soviet republics, the Turkish Federative State of North Cyprus (now the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus), the German Democratic Repubic and its capital city East Berlin (Berlin, Capital of the GDR), West Berlin (then an occupied enclave inside the GDR, not officially part of the Federal Republic of Germany), and former Czechoslovakia (including both Slovakia and what is now the Czech Republic, visited in 1990 which was the early post-Socialist era but before it split into two countries) .

When you outlive so many people and countries you certainly start to feel your age.

Since then many new countries have come into being, and some of these I’ve only visited under their former administrations. I’ve only re-visited under their new names/administrations Croatia and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.

Even here in the UK many places I lived in, and the borough I was born in, no longer exist. Middlesex, a county I lived in, has gone. So have all the old London boroughs. Many county boundaries have changed, with Hampshire losing both the Isle of Wight and Bournemouth, and Sussex being split into two.

My mother, born in 1914 and celebrating her 100th birthday next year, has of course seen far more changes in her lifetime, including the birth and death of the Soviet Union, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and the disappearance of Prussia to become part of Poland.

As to my relations, so many have now passed to Spirit including all my uncles and aunts on my mother’s side of the family and of course both sets of grandparents (I never met my paternal grandfather, and only met my maternal grandmother once. We couldn’t communicate (only by signs) because of the language barrier – she was Greek-Cypriot). Also my father, his two brothers (my uncles), their wives, two cousins on my mother’s side, and many of my life-partner’s relatives who I regard as related (whether you call them in-laws or out-laws since there was no gay marriage or civil partnerships while my partner was alive). This includes his sister and 4 of his nephews, also two of his two sisters’ husbands. And his cousin Margaret and her husband.

Most of these people we knew and visited quite often, and it really makes me feel old when I remember my young nephews on my partner’s side who have since grown up, some married, had children and then died.

Places in London I remember have long gone. The cinema where I met my life-partner and a partner before him. The restaurant my father ran which gave its name to the Swiss Cottage area of London and should have been listed (see picture below) – the whole area is now unrecognizable.

Swiss Cottage

Also the hospital where I was born (see picture below), the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street (near Oxford Street) scandalously demolished when it was due to be preserved as a hotel.

Middlesex Hospital 2

Middlesex Hospital

And of course the currency changed from pounds, shillings and pence, imperial measures went (only the mile kept for some obscure reason – too expensive to change all the cars and road signs?), and the language has changed dramatically with new words for things, and old words used as different parts of speech altogether. Thus we get ‘reveal’ used as a noun in place of ‘revelation’, ‘resolve’ as a noun instead of ‘resolution’, ‘structure’ used as a verb instead of a noun, with the horrendous (itself a ‘new’ word made from ‘horrible’ and ‘tremendous’) derivative ‘restructuring’ when the proper word is ‘reorganization’ or ‘rebuilding’ according to the context in which it is used. There are many more examples, for instance the reference to ‘Chrimbo’ for ‘Christmas’, and of course all the politically correct language which really is all far over the head of my mother who sings old songs with very politically incorrect terms included.

Oh, and the Labour Party used to be at least a nominally Socialist one based on the common ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, The Red Flag being its official anthem and the flag carried on its May Day parades, everyone calling each other ‘comrade’, resolutions passed committing it to things like giving up the British Bomb, and the old logo incorporating workers’ implements and the torch of liberty instead of the red rose (see picture of old logo below). The old logo of a shovel for the manual workers and a quill pen for the clerical workers and intellectuals, plus the torch of liberty was really a variation on the Communist logos – the hammer and sickle (representing the workers and the peasantry), hammer and compass (the workers by hand and by brain, East Germany), and the North Korean logos (a hammer for the workers, a hoe for the peasants and a brush for the intellectuals).

Labour Party, old logo

Times change, places change, people in my life change, and the world is now a very different place from when I was born in March 1945 at the end of the Second World War. Hitler was still Chancellor of Germany (just), Stalin was the Soviet leader, Churchill the British one and Franklin D. Roosevelt was the US President soon to be replaced by Harry S. Truman.