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Friday, 24 April 2015

Human Migrations

Humans have been migrating, I suspect, since the dawn of time. There have been many reasons for it I suspect, starting with the need to move when a familiar area can no longer support the tribe, clan, family and going all the way up to conflict and the need to escape. Individually the reasons can range from the desire to find a sexual/breeding partner to the desire for wealth and power. Then there are those who can see no hope of leading a life of hope or fulfilment in the place of their birth, and need to move to find employment even of the most basic once they reach adulthood. And when even that is denied them through war, discrimination, crime and corruption or lack of any viable opportunity, they are forced to take desperate measures.

This is where we see the sort of tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean at present. As the latest death toll rises, we hear all the usual politicians wringing their hands and saying all the usual things about ‘addressing the problem at its roots’ but doing nothing.

Reading all the usual twaddle from politicians, ‘aid agencies’, UN officials (many from the countries that ARE the problem) and commentators on various news shows, one is struck, very forcibly, by the lack of any workable solution being proposed by any of them. The UN and various ‘humanitarian’ groups all want Europe to throw open its borders and let the hordes in. No checks, no restrictions - just take them in and presumably house, feed and clothe them. Our political leaders want to give more ‘aid’ or send ‘advisers’ and, of course, the Aid Agencies and NGOs all want more money so they can do more to ‘lift people out of poverty’. All very laudable, but none of it actually addresses the root of the problem - incompetent and utterly corrupt governments.

In our haste to ‘de-colonise’ Africa in particular, we overlooked something rather important. Very few of the new ‘nations’ we left south of the Sahara had any ‘tradition’ of settled civilisation prior to colonisation, and even fewer were actually homogenous peoples. Most included more than one tribal group, and most of those tribes were traditional enemies who preyed on each other until forced to stop by the colonial power. The Mashona were happily enslaving all their neighbours and selling them to Arab slave traders at Mombasa and Dar Es Salaam right up until the British - at the behest of none other than Cecil John Rhodes (whose statue has just been attacked and now removed from the campus at University of Cape Town) sent in the Army to put a stop to it in 1898. That’s right, 1898! Robert Mugabe, take note.

Southern Africa is the classic example of historic migrations, since ALL the current ‘Bantu’ tribes now claiming it as their ‘homeland’ actually only arrived there after 1700 - around 40 years after the Dutch established their trading post at the Cape. They displaced the indigenous peoples, the Khoi folk, who formed three groups, a coastal people known to the Dutch as Strandlopers, the ‘Bushmen’ who inhabited the drier inland regions, and the Hottentot peoples of the western Cape. Another group who inhabited the central plateau - now the Free State and Northern Cape - have vanished entirely, their only traces being dry stone constructions of cattle pens and strange ‘beehive’ houses entered on hands and knees through an angled tunnel entrance. Like the Khoi peoples, they were driven out, driven into the deserts, and eventually killed on sight by the invading Bantu. Though to hear it now, it was the Europeans ‘wot done it’. Sadly, for the builders of the stone huts, the White explorers that found their remains were about fifty years too late.

So what is driving today’s mass migrations? 

To a very large extent it appears to be the failure of the post-colonial governments of almost all the African states to provide any sort of stable government. Plus the total lack of any prospects for employment, education, or to house, feed, and clothe oneself decently. Almost certainly one of the most powerful drivers is overpopulation. There simply aren’t the natural resources to support the populations now trying to subsist on them. Water is an obvious one, but so is arable land. I suspect that one reason sub-saharan Africa has not produced any settled cities or permanent agriculture is that the soil and the water available cannot sustain them. 

Thus, until fairly recent ‘colonial’ history, the agriculture tended to be slash and burn, farm it until the soil and the water was exhausted - then move on. Most of Africa is not covered by dense jungle or forest - by far the largest portion of it is desert or semi-desert, and most tribal systems prior to the colonial rush, were hunter gatherer and nomadic. Neither of these systems is suited to the massive expansion of the populations all over Africa, and the lack of industries, and lack of commercial traditions (in the western sense) means that most now have to find ways to make a living independently of the sort of system the developed countries enjoy. Nor is it likely that these will develop in the short term, given that corruption is rampant, nepotism, tribalism and sometimes xenophobia reach into every aspect of daily life.

Only those folk who have seen the shanty towns, the lack of infrastructures, the sewerage running in the streets and the lack of even the most basic services in these countries can begin to understand the desperation many feel. Only when our political classes, who burble on about ‘poverty’ and ‘economic development’ as if throwing money at it will change it, even begin to understand how their approach is simply enriching the most corrupt, and grinding the poorest even further into the mire will we begin to find a solution. Tanzania’s President has recently sold almost the entire Masai Mara off to the Sultan of one of the Gulf States. One point 6 MILLION square kilometres of land, as a ‘private’ safari park. Pity about the Masai who are now being driven from the land their forefathers first settled around the time the ‘Prophet’ the Sultan follows was hiding out in the mountains. 

Mozambique is selling huge tracts of land to the Chinese and to Western entrepreneurs for ‘development’ - and turning to small subsistence farmers off, forcing them into squatter camps, or into the hands of people traffickers so they end up on overloaded boats drowning in the Med or elsewhere in their efforts to find a decent life somewhere. The same thing is happening all over Africa, and while the IMF, the UN and other applaud these deals and approve the funding on the grounds it will help ‘develop’ the country, the reality is that most of it finds its way straight back into Swiss and other bank accounts held by - you guessed it - the ‘governing’ families and Parties who sold land they don’t ‘own’ in the first place.

Is it any wonder then that everywhere you look in Africa there are conflicts, armed and otherwise? Everywhere you look there is grinding poverty that can never be addressed? Is it any wonder the people resort to such desperate measures as to board unsuitable vessels and take the risk of catastrophe to reach what our prosperity projects as the land in which the streets are paved with gold, and everyone is a millionaire?

Easy for idle protesters, many on State handouts, to ‘demand’ we simply open the borders and take them in. Easy to scream, rant and shout that ‘more must be done’ to save the boat people, but what do we do with them once they are here? We have unemployment, we have people in poverty, we have people in need of assistance, and much as we’d like to, we simply can’t take in all those we’d like to. The solution lays in Africa itself, and though it may be painful, that is where it has to be addressed. Not on the open sea between Europe and North Africa, and not in Italy, Southern France, Britain, Greece or anywhere else in Europe.


I would suggest it has to start with stripping the ill-gotten gains from those in power there, and, perhaps under international supervision, the construction of proper infrastructures, proper services and the founding of proper industries, commerce, and, of course, education. That would be the sensible way to go — but since we’re dealing with politicians (with their own peccadilloes to protect) I will not be holding my breath to see it happen.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Interview

I was recently interviewed by Kura Carpenter, a cover designer based in New Zealand. Some readers will know that she has designed other covers for my books, so it was a pleasure to discuss my latest book with her. The interview can be read on her blog Kura Carpenter Design.


Discussions are underway on the design of the cover for my next book, set around 1836 and life in and around London and the Tahmes estuary. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Newly Released

Some time ago I set out to republish one of my early titles. It has been a long and sometimes challenging exercise, but the 'new' book required around fifty percent new material, a lot of rewriting of the remainder and the complete excision of around forty percent of the original. I wish I'd had the professional editing and advice when I first published it ...

The result is a 'new' title and a largely 'new' story published by IndieGo Publishing as an eBook available through Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Google. Retitled Harry Heron; Midshipman's Journey, it remains within the 'canon' of my Harry Heron adventure series, and the reorganised, rewritten and reformatted book is, in my humble opinion, one hundred percent what I wanted it to be. Working with and through a professional editor has been more than an education, and it has seen my work transformed. That has, in itself, flowed through into everything else.

So, here it is, Harry Heron; Midshipman's Journey.


Cover design and art is by Kura Carpenter of Kura Carpenter Design, and the text is edited by Janet Angelo of IndieGo Publishing LLC whoc also did the internal design and formatting.



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Just for fun - something inspired by the late Sir Terry Pratchett

Schloss Überwaldburg
Überwaldburg
Bad Grabstein

Dr Frankenfeller
Director-General
Equal Rights Division
Nomercy Hospital
Bad Schmel
Multicultiland


Sehr geehrte Herr Direktor,

I write to protest concerning the treatment of my young servant laboratory assistant, Igor Igor. I think it is disgraceful that your hospital, which advertises an ‘equal opportunities’ policy, has refused to consider his application for a position. As for the contention that he is ‘not young enough’ to take on the work; nonsense! Why, at least two thirds of him is less than one hundred and fifty years old and he is skilled at renewing those parts of himself that wear out.

The fact that he resembles a cross between the hunchback of Notre Dame and someone called ‘Freddy Krueger’ is no grounds whatever to have him escorted from the premises and barred from approaching. To have taken out a court order to restrict him is, sir, beyond reasonable. Like all his relatives, he is an extremely skilled surgeon and practices self-improvement in a practical manner. They do not believe in wasting organs, limbs or other pieces of any fresh corpse body - indeed they make excellent use of the ice caves beneath my Schloss in storing their spare donor parts.

His simple desire to make his skills available to your hospital is, in my view, a laudable humanitarian ambition. One which could only benefit your species. All the Igors are, after all, constructed of entirely human parts. Their skills in reconstruction, reassembly and revivification have been developed and honed over centuries. The behaviour of your ‘Human Resources’ manager is nothing less than despicable. Her screams when he showed her the example of his reconstructed and repaired heart were not just ear shattering. They penetrated my sarcophagus and disturbed my day’s rest! Indeed, the shrill pitch has left three of the older members of the family with difficulties in utilising their extremely sensitive hearing for locating meals living creatures. Really, what could possibly be so frightening about a heart in a jar beating normally? Anyone would think such things are unknown in your hospital.

As if this were not enough, to have the senior medical officer tell the court that he should be excluded and barred from approaching the hospital because he might remind patients of a character from some moving picture, is insulting. I have researched this and find that Igor does not resemble a burned serial killer! I can assure you none of the Igors would kill anything, and as for the popular belief they steal bodies - well, really! They believe that when someone has no further use of a body part of themselves it should be recycled. A thoroughly laudable intention if you ask me. After all, why waste perfectly good hearts, livers, lungs etc., simply because the rest of the body is worn out?

As to the demand he produce a qualification, surely the fact he was able to produce a living functioning heart for inspection should amply demonstrate his knowledge and capability. Qualification indeed! I am given to understand that the interviewing ‘doctor’ had never seen a beating heart detached from a body before. Of what worth are his qualifications then? Is he capable of reassembling a man who has fallen into the saw bed of a timber mill? Igor Igor has done so - and successfully restarted the man. Admittedly the man does still have a tendency to walk sideways and to blow the circuits of any electrical appliance he touches - but he is otherwise fully functional.

Indeed, there are several citizens who have good reason to be grateful for the ministrations of one of the Igors. Several carpenters would be out of work but for their skill at reattaching fingers, and at least one hunter would now be in a disassembled state in the ice store had there not been an Igor with a spare heart at hand to replace the one some careless individual had destroyed through a badly aimed long bow on a hunt. Can your ‘qualified’ doctor-surgeon do this? 

Igor Igor would have been an asset to your surgical team but since your staff choose to exercise their prejudice on the one hand, and the medical director chooses to insist on some ‘qualification’ obtained from a university on the other, you will now be hearing from my solicitor! This is a clear case of discrimination and prejudice.

I look forward to your apology to Igor Igor, and your speedy response to my demands request that you reconsider the decision of the interviewers and the withdrawal of the court order.

Pleasant screams dreams  

Wolfgang von Überwaldburg

Count von Überwaldburg, Vicomte Grabstein, Graf von Wolfwald.


PS: My lovely daughter, Letitia, asks that you inform the young surgeon in the Orthopaedic Ward, that his garland of garlic is now stale, and quite appealing to her. She is also curious to know why he, a self-declared atheist, keeps so many religious symbols and a large container of Holy Water to hand.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Milestones

Last year was one of those 'milestones' in life in a number of ways. It was the fiftieth anniversary of my finishing my 'formal' schooling. It marked the point at which I found myself launched, unprepared and without a map or a compass into the world of 'work'. I don't think I was the only one to have that feeling as we walked out of the school gates for the last time as pupils. For myself, beyond some vague ideas about becoming a priest (I'd passed the selection process, but been told I had to first work for three years), doing - perhaps - military service (it was on a ballot system) or 'going to sea' somehow, I'd not the faintest idea of what sort of 'work' I could do, let alone look for. University was not an option, my parents couldn't afford it, and even had they been able to, I managed to NOT pass the key subject, Mathematics.

As I quickly discovered, that limited my options quite considerably. I got lucky, my father's boss arranged for me to be interviewed by Barclays Bank, and much to my surprise, they hired me. So last month saw me report for my first day at work in the Main Street Branch - which was a Regional Head Office - of Barclays Bank DCO. I worked for them for three years, and I think it is true to say that was long enough to know I didn't suit banking. A spell trying to explore my vocation at Theological College ended in my taking a post as a travel agent as I simply did not have the support necessary to survive three years with no income. I tried sales (my grandfather ran his own 'agency' business, but I wasn't working for him), I tried clerical, the civil service (Customs and Excise) and I tried the fire service.

Fifty years, three marriages and three children (all from the first) later I look back on a career that now spans two continents and covers a little over 36 years between South Africa and the UK. It has taken me to the Romania, Poland, Kazahkstan, the US, the Caribbean, West Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. It also led to my eventually meeting and marrying my wife.

As I sat on the benches at the Founder's Day Ceremony at Selborne College last October I could not help but marvel at how much I've experienced, and how much I've seen and done since that day in 1964 that I walked out of the Lukin Road gate for the last time. I was saddened to learn how many of my former school mates were no longer with us, astonished at the journey many more have made, and delighted to see around thirty of them at the reunion. Here are some photos ...

The School's War Memorial, installed in 1920 to commemorate the former Old Boys who died in 1914 - 18. They fell in France, Belgium, Turkey, East Africa and in various oceans as well. The list enlarged to include 1939 - 45 and the subsequent 'Bush Wars'.

The Ceremony of the Key. Each year a representative of the incoming Matriculation Class is selected by his fellow pupils as the next 'Custodian of the Key' and the Changing of the Guard on the Memorial is marked by the handing over of the Key. The Ceremony has been performed since 1921 and the boys parading for this are now entirely volunteers.

Probably the only mark of my passage through the school. I subscribed to a campaign to raise money for the future of the school, so my name appears beneath my father's and above that of a friend I made in 1957. My 'Old Friend', as he likes to remind me ... OK, OK, so he's six months my senior ...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Apologists for Terror ...

In recent weeks I have noted that a number of organisations concerned with 'human rights' and others that seek to promote 'inclusion' or 'multiculturalism' have been joining up with organisations like CAGE - an advocacy group registered as a limited company in the UK. An article in today's Daily Telegraph is well worth reading. The latest group to throw their lot in with Cage is Amnesty International, thereby destroying the last vestiges of sympathy I once had for their cause. They join Liberty, Justice and five other 'human rights' and advocacy groups in supporting the outright lies peddled by CAGE. A visit to the Cage website quickly tells you everything you probably didn't want to know about them. Think of someone accused or convicted of terrorist activities in the name of Islam, and they have him on their page - with an article about why he or she was 'radicalised' by the British way of life, or our 'security' services.

The bit that really gets me going though, is the latest 'campaign' in which they defend - that's right, DEFEND - Jihadi John, or to give him his real name, Mohammad Emwazi. A Kuwaiti, naturalised as British, he is now the 'front man' executioner for the ISIS, his image appearing on their propaganda videos as he happily beheads 'Kufars', Christians, hostages and presumably anyone else this unspeakable group wish to exterminate. But, according to CAGE, and now Amnesty et al, poor Mohammad Emwazi is a deeply misunderstood victim of MI5. According to them, he was 'radicalised' by their having targeted him when he attempted to join al-Shabab in Somalia. The Kenyan authorities intercepted him, shipped him back to Amsterdam (his start point on the journey) and the Dutch handed him over to MI5.

MI5 didn't arrest him, they did interview him and told him they'd be keeping an eye on him in future. Of course, according to Emwazi he'd gone to Kenya to join a safari. Except there is NO trace of his name on any bookings for such a tour. He wasn't booked into a hotel either. Funny that. Or maybe he thought, 'what the heck - Africa. You just go there and do these things when you get there'. Of course Amnesty et al fail to mention that when he arrived in Kenya, he was met by a known al-Shabab operative - and in case anyone is still unaware, al-Shabab is one of the major supporters of ISIS, providing people and training for them. Who knows - possibly MI5 does - but they may also be providing funding as they are involved in piracy operations off the Somali coast ...

So poor innocent Jihadi John and all the other misguided morons and psychopaths fighting for ISIS are all our fault. It is we, the British hosts of these murderers and ungrateful oils, that have 'radicalised' them - presumably by our refusal to adopt their 'Sharia' laws, execute prisoners by beheading them, and failing to instantly adopt their twisted religion.

CAGE argues that to accuse these men, women and girls flocking to the ISIS of being 'Islamic Extremists' is 'Islamophobia' and racism. Yes, right. Genocide committed by Islamic extremists is, of course, all the fault of the victims, for not being Salafist/Wahabist Sunni Muslims.

One can but hope that Mr Blair and those of his coterie who rammed 'Multi-Culty' down our throats, and who still insist that in criticising the likes of CAGE, or the actions of the likes of Jihadi John is 'Islamophobic' and 'racist'. The fact that CAGE is linked to a body known as Islamic Education and Research Academy - known to be linked to Syrian terror groups. It is also headed by a man who describes Jewish people as the 'brethren of swine and pigs'. Funny that, if I or anyone else made such a public statement about Muslims or anyone else - we'd be in court and rightly so - but not, apparently if you're  Muslim hate preacher.

It is seriously time our politicians stopped pandering to these groups. It is time to cut them off at the rot. If they don't like our way of life, our society, or the opportunities it offers, there are plenty of 'paradise' countries run by those who think as they do. Just one thing - take the local morons who can't get over their guilt trips with you.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The New Bigotry

A guest post by a teacher based in Texas. Judi posts elsewhere under the pen name judiverse, and this article she wrote recently touched a cord with many of her regular readers.

"Jews, Kikes, Polocks, Chinks"--my father-in-law could go through a long list of derogatory terms in the course of one mealtime.  An ardent basketball fan, he loved the men's games but derided the women's teams.  He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law after serving in World War II, but his attitudes were typical of that era.

Since those Post World War II days, the nation has seen sit-in's, desegregation, affirmative action, hate crime laws, gay marriages, and numerous other societal changes.  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. made civil rights history; Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.  Illegal immigrants may be on their way to receiving the full benefits of citizenship.  Women have come a long way, and are now welcomed as CEO's, members of Congress, and presidental candidates.  Gay marriage has become the law in several states.

All that progress sounds like reason to celebrate, and in many ways, it is.  However, we are seeing a new form of bigotry, one that persecutes people for not being one of the now-favored groups.  For instance, Caucasian students are told to check their "white privilege" at the college classroom doors.  They have professors who tell them about the evils white men have perpetrated against people of color throughout the nation's history and lay a guilt trip on them for what happened centuries ago.  They learn to hate themselves.  Burdened with sins of the past, they will  overlook the root causes of black crime and unemployment and approve more and more taxpayer expenditures to assuage their white guilt. 

Gay marriage may well be on the way to becoming the law of the land.  Most people accept that fact and harbor no ill feelings towards gays.  But if a Miss California contestant expresses her personal opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman, her words may disqualify her.  If a company CEO says he doesn't approve of same-sex marriages,  protestors hold demonstrations and encourage others to boycott his restaurants.  It makes no difference that his establishments treat their customers and employees fairly, regardless of sexual orientation.  Political correctness demands that they must totally support gay marriages.

When the United States saw the influx of children pouring into the country from Central America, hearts went out to them and the cry arose to take them in.  To many, it is the country's duty to welcome illegal immigrants by giving them the whole package--tax credits, driver's licenses, welfare benefits.  Granting the perks of citizenship to those who entered illegally is a form of discrimination against those who worked hard, went through the proper channels, and waited for years to attain legal citizenship.  It also tips the scales against poor U.S. citizens who are looking for a job or a chance to obtain a college education.

Although we now see females as CEO's of large corporations and in the highest government positions, we have yet to elect a woman president.  When the 2016 elections come around, will voters choose a female candidate because she is the best qualified, or will they cast their ballot because it's time for a female president?  It will provide another feel-good moment, a time to celebrate yet another barrier being broken.

The new form of bigotry shows itself in attacks on the Christian faith.   Sales associates in some department stores dare not wish customers a "Merry Christmas."  Displays of crosses or the Ten Commandments are unwelcome in many communities.  At a recent prayer breakfast, President Obama attempted to put Christians in their proper place by making this comparison to the violence of Islamic extremism:  "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."  He neglected to mention that Christians aren't the ones who've been beheading people or telling people of another faith to convert or die.  His words were designed to make people feel guilty over events of several centuries ago.

People feel persecuted and diminished under the new bigotry if they express opinions different from the politically correct, "settled" ones.  Those who raise questions about climate change will be singled out for their unenlightened views.  People who drive the wrong kind of car will be judged for polluting the environment.  Vegetarians will condemn people who enjoy a steak dinner at a restaurant.  Hunters, obese people, families with more than the accepted number of children--the list of targets for the new bigots continues to grow.

Although the United States no longer sees lynch mobs or crosses burned in yards, the new bigots have their own ways of exacting retribution.   A student who disagrees with his or her professor's ideology could receive lower grades.  Employees who make politically incorrect remarks in private e-mails have suddenly found themselves out of a job.  Companies that fall into disfavor with a particular group have been the targets of demonstrations and boycotts.  If the dissenting voices become too big a threat, the federal government sometimes attempts to stifle them with measures such as tax audits. 

Those who practice the new bigotry must lie awake nights,  consumed with their hatred.  A man who writes frequent angry letters to our local newspaper is obsessed with the Koch brothers and how much they contribute to Republican campaigns.  He never acknowledges that the other side also has its billionaire donors.  I've seen TV guests virtually turn purple when questioned about the merits of green energy.  These individuals have their minds closed to any other opinions.

The words of the poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron,  speak across the centuries to these new bigots:  "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."