Saturday, April 05, 2003
BACK TO BASICSI remember, with a wry smile, hearing that millions of space research dollars went into a project to design a pen that would work in zero gravity, while the Russians, with significantly less to invest, came up with a writing tool that would work; they called it 'карандаш' or pencil.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
We have heard about the 'fog of war' as justification for the unacceptable number of casualties caused, not by the enemy fire, but our own allies. When you put your life on the line, you do not want to rely on expensive quirky technology that is supposed to be in place to prevent such tragedies happening. You want something you can have faith in to protect you.
There is something very low tech and cheap that had been overlooked by those boffins designing evermore awesome and complicated armoury and it doesn't cost mega-bucks. So, British soldiers, right now , are ordering Union Jack flags over the Internet to fly on their vehicles to make them more easily identifiable to pilots above them. The biggest manufacturer of flags in Britain is working flat out to meet the demand.
Click on this image to go to a full report from the Sky News website.
johncoxon 11:57 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
BOTTOM OF THE GENE POOL
Sunday, March 30, 2003
I spent a very happy couple of holidays in Turkey when my orginal family was still intact and I was struck by the eagerness of oridinary Turkish people in the shops,hotels and restaurants to be courteous and genuinely welcoming. I remember, once, when I was staying in a hotel in Dalyan, and sat up, very late, drinking coffee with the hotel owner. We got talking about the hospitality industry and he commented to me, that as a Moslem, for him, a visitor or guest was someone it was his sacred duty, as a Moslem,to make welcome and to look after regally. I suppose, that, even if there are political difficulties you might have with a particular national regime, it is the attitude and personal dignity of a country's individuals that shape our perceptions because, to a large extent, personal behaviour reflects the culture.
The presence of British troops in Iraq has, for me, led to reflection on my nationality and I have felt immense pride in the job that our servicemen are doing under the Union Jack. Last night, I watched our national football side play Turkey in an international match which showed two very skilful and proud teams display great skill and determination. This night as well, the nation had pride in a young man of only seventeen years old, who played with a discipline, maturity and flare that electrified the crowds and led to him getting a standing ovation as he was substituted ten minutes before the end of the football match. There was incident on the pitch between players and a few potentially ugly confrontations but I felt it was largely passion for the game.
Outside the ground, the national sub-species, neanderthal urban man was displaying the kind of behaviour that made me feel so very ashamed and wanting to apologise to those decent Turkish people who came to support their national side and were confronted with racial abuse and violence
Outside Sunderland's Stadium of Light there had been some 50 arrests before the match and 106 arrests after the match. I was completely unsurpised that, of those arrested, at least 25 were well know to the police, 'hooligan' criminals who operate a sort of private thug army with sophisticated lines of command and, also, unsurpsiringly, these people are linked to extreme right wing political groups who are blatantly racist and very probably engage in other hate crimes as their principal leisure activity. Such is the politic that I tend to associate with the bottom of the gene pool. No Turkish supporter was amongst those arrested. We were expecting a tough match and some crowd trouble was anticipated, but the scale of this trouble was unexpected and had little to do with football or events in a previous game , in Turkey, where one English supporter was killed in fighting between rival 'fan' groups.
I really think that this sinister army of racist men really believe that they 'represent' our country and the attack on the Turkish supporters was carefully stage managed. Sociologists try to explain these people and their actions. They are not, apparently, exclusively moronic or all from the same social group. All seem to believe that their behaviour is entirely reasonable and justified. Their 'game' was , of course, nothing to do with the actual sport of football; the match simply presented an opportunity for self-actualising anti-social behaviour and an excuse to indulge in their favourite pastime, cowardly, 'macho' mob disorder. I would be devastated if anyone abroad formed the view that these people in any way represented the vast majority of people, of any age, in the British Isles and I want to apologise for their disgraceful tribal animalism.
There is a link between this event at an England football match and an horrendously offensive incident which took place at a war cemetery at Etaples in France the other day. Chirac was moved to write personally to the Queen to apologise on his own and the nation's behalf for the racist defilement of the War graves of British servicemen who lost their lives fighting for France in the first World War. The French have great respect for all combattants and, in fact most streets in Paris, for example, have a commemorative plaque to some fallen hero they won't allow to be forgotten. Furthermore, up till now, war memorials sites have been sacred and kept immaculate and there is no doubt in my mind that the French greatly respect the sacrifices made by all servicemen and women on their behalf.
Regardless of the difficulity some people have with France at the moment in their stance on the Iraq war, surely no decent person in any nation would condone the racist remarks that had been sprawled on these monuments and no one could believe for a minute that it was the work of any sane and reasonable French person. I suspect that the bottom end of the gene pool is, once again, responsible. We are blessed that such barbarians are only a very small minority in big populations of decent folk in all our countries. It isn't about politics or nationality ; it is about individual choices about how we act towards others, whoever they are and wherever they are from. Here, with that crowd trouble, these 'English' men have made deliberate peverse choices without any consideration for the consequences to others. Ultimately this is self-gratification and they have to operate in packs to validate what they do (after a lager or two of course.) Such sad men, who never progressed developmentally and grew up, and whose only achievement will be to inspire national shame, are locked in their tragic pursuit for kudos amongst their marginalised peers.
johncoxon 11:41 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
NATION SHALL SPEAK PEACE UNTO NATION ?
Being, or trying to be, a Buddhist, confers, for me, an advantage in having a 'faith' that has no dogma or God. If I am an open person, I thank not having a God for that. Simply put, behaving decently is a personal choice or preference, not a religious mandate or done in fear of judgement or reprisal in an after life. The founder of Buddhism was simply an individual trying to find universal truths and those truths had no grounding in any supernatural power. In a sense, for me, Buddhism is not my religion or faith, but a set of guidelines or ideas for spiritual and mental helth that I think represent the best way to live my life and those ideas broadly fitted conclusions about how I should live that I had somehow reached in my early years. The State into which I was born promoted , and still promotes, in school at least, as a priority, Christianity, and it has never, for second , offered a doctine that I could accept, and my sense of what is decent behaviour, though similar to the Christian view, has no basis in that dogma.
Buddhism was the antithesis of all other 'scriptures'I had read or have since read. Most other scriptures are regarded as the word of a supernatural being passed down and transcribed by a prophet,even though I regard all of them as collective folk wisdom. If the result of such dogma is , essentially decent behaviour to all others, then I don't have a problem in honouring them as valid and worthy of great respect
Buddhism doesn't have a single book or script, but a library of anecdotal things written down in a number of books, after the Buddha died. Underlying it are a very brief set of bullet point standards of behaviour that are not demanded but offered as advice to enable a person to have a full and meaningful existence. I have absolute confidence that no anti-human act has ever been committed by anyone who has the right to call themselves a Buddhist, in the same way that true adherents to other world faiths are peaceful people who behave with decency and dignity to all others, regardless of faith or race.
There is, however, in our world, a tragically long historical catalogue of injustices and attrocities committed by people who have used a biased interpretation of their scriptures to justify anti-human acts. It is those who chose to read into their scriptures justification for 'ungodly' acts who are the root of all major conflicts in our world, it seems to me.
This weekend my left column blog links went crazy and I had to re-do them. I added a favourite image and motto ,to the bottom of my index page, which would probably be my flag if I was asked to produce one. It has a similar message to the ideal you see on the BBC motto' Nation shall speak peace unto nation', a sound biblical reference, which , regardless of occasional lapses, I believe, the BBC genuinely strives to uphold. It saddens me that there are folks who seem to spend their whole time web-logging bias in BBC reporting around the world. I wonder whether they were too busy listening out for minor confirmations of their pre-conceptions and thus fail to allow in a broader picture of people in an organisation trying to inform , but, as we all should be, mindful that, the words we chose, and the direction we chose to point the camera or the microphone, has to be selective ( and that in the end is an individual choice ) and makes us open to accusations of bias depending on the pictures, sounds and images that you or I were hoping for or expecting to see to confirm our personal perspectives?
Mottos, badges and flags are, after all ideals, like icons, representing something we are striving towards,and , if we use them, are seen as representing what we have in common and believe in. Yet each of us, with our human weaknesses, will, from time to time, fail to meet those standards even though we use those images to represent us.
When I was posting this image of those very young children of mixed races happily sitting together, Angela asked me whether using such an image was appropriate or safe , in view of all the horrors, via the internet, we read about in terms of abuse of children and how that might posibly impact on me, using such an image. I understood why she had said that but the image fits what I wanted to represent.
Innocence. That is the innocence we are all born with before awareness of history, religion, national boundaries are imposed on natural beings whom we corrupt with our own prejudices, thus ensuring that injustices will perpetuate. Innocence is rooted in a latin word, that, I believe, relates to 'meaning no harm'. I really believe that the child in each of us,when we put aside prejudices we have been fed, is able to speak to anyone from the same global race and that then, there are no barriers or frontiers. Even language need not be a barrier, and babies of the age these children represent , signify shared life forces that gurgle and communicate, without words, a mutual joy for life, with one another, before they are corrupted with adult notions of difference. Adults who forget, or forgot, they were once children, are reponsible for everything that makes this world unsafe for children and everyone else.
johncoxon 12:54 AM - [Link] - Comments ()