Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Out with the old ...

Out with the old and in with the new as the saying is. 2013 has certainly seen its ups and downs, and I suspect a few people won't be sorry to see the end of it. Hopefully 2014 will bring better fortunes for us all. For my own family there have been some great times and some of the others as well. My youngest daughter got married in July to a man I really like. My eldest finished her Bachelor of Science degree with Honours, and my son is currently doing what he loves - flying helicopters.

Silke, Harry and I had a great holiday in the UK, travelling around in a hired camper van, the only snag being the battle we had with the UK's 'rules' concerning animals (even with 'Pet Passports') arriving by air with their owners. Next time we'll know, and travel by car!

Our trip took us through Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Gloucestershire, giving us a chance to walk on beaches, explore the history and catch up with friends. It was lots of fun and the Camper Van proved to be a good way to do it.

A trip to Belgrade for a conference for  me proved interesting, and Silke had similar conference trips to Hamburg and Thuringia. Our papers were well received - rewarding considering the amount of effort that goes into preparing them.

The rest of the year has been taken up with a wide range of work related activities for Silke, the publication of one new book for me, and preparation of another. The work I've tackled for a history of my former place of employment seems to have stalled temporarily while I try to find information, anecdotes and pictures of one of its 'former' manifestations, and, of course, lots of 'playtime' and walks for Harry.

All that remains is to wish all my friends and  readers a very happy and prosperous 2014!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Feasts, Festivals and their significance

Since the dawn of mankind, as archeologists are discovering, humans have found reasons to celebrate certain events, or to mark certain seasonal changes. In recent years it has once agin become fashionable to re-invent, or in the words of some, to reclaim, the major Christian festivals, usually in the name of some 'original' religion, but often just for the sake of making it more 'inclusive' and secular. In recent days I have read several treatises on how Christmas was "stolen" from Nordic pagans, or some other group or people, so perhaps it is time to look afresh at why Christianity adopted certain dates in order to mark key events or beliefs.

The one festival we can be reasonably certain of is the Easter festival. Since St John tells us the trial, condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection all occurred "on the eve of the Passover". It made sense therefore to the early Christians to mark the Jewish Passover by commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. The problem is, of course, that it isn't a "fixed" feast in the sense that it may occur anywhere between March 21 and April 25. The Jewish formula, the Orthodox Church and the Western Churches all have slight variations on the way they determine it (Rome, responsible for the way we calculate Easter in the West, changed the formula at least three times between 325 AD and 700 AD) which means, of course, that while Easter and Passover often do coincide, sometimes they don't. It also means that the Western Easter and the Orthodox Easter often don't coincide either. Personally I don't believe this makes one jot of difference - the key is that we remember what Easter is all about - the fact that Christ died on the cross (forensic analysis of the accounts makes that clear!), and rose from the tomb in a renewed 'body' on the third morning. It is this 'resurrection' which is key to the entire Christian Faith. That is why Easter is so important to all Christians.

Having dealt with the reason Easter is 'moveable' and not 'fixed' let us look at some of the other major festivals. The obvious 'biggy' is Christmas, set as the 25th December by the early church fathers. It certainly didn't take its present form however until quite late, and it isn't, and never was, intended to mark the actual day of Christ's birth. Again, examination of the gospel accounts more or less tell us it was very likely in summer. Shepherds and sheep aren't out on the hills in winter, even in the Holy Land. So why did the early fathers choose this date?

The answer is simple. Many of their converts already celebrated the Saturnalia between 21 December and 1 January. Primarily the Saturnalia is a fertility festival associated with a fairly wide range of 'fertility rites' including public copulation as an "offering" to some local deity. Under Romano-Greek practice Bacchus, Satyrs, Pan and several other 'fertility' figures featured in the celebration which marked, as you've guessed, the gradual move out of the winter and into the Spring rebirth of fields, forests and animals. Theologically it does not take a great deal of effort to link the Birth of the New Adam - Jesus Christ - to a renewal of all life, and the renewal through the 'New Adam' of all humanity as well. As St Paul did with the Athenian altar to "the Unknown God", all that really happened was that the Christian converts found a new reason to celebrate the Saturnalia, though we may be sure they didn't continue with some of the more carnal excesses!

Over time, and with the spread of Christianity, the Winter Solstice celebrations in Northern Lands were 'converted' to the Christian message, again, largely because converts already kept these celebrations, and simply were given a new interpretation of them. Thus, Yule logs, Christmas trees, decorations and lights entered the celebrations. As the faith spread, each 'new' group of converts found ways to celebrate their new faith within the framework of the celebrations of their 'old' faith. Gradually these have been 'standardised' by the wider church, but still retain a lot of local and regional variations.

This is how some of the Imbolc customs have become associated with Easter, and how some of the Samhain customs associated with the Festival of All Saints. Imbolc, a festival celebrated by the "Celtic" tribes of Northern Europe and the British Isles doesn't coincide with Easter as some think and actually falls in February. It was originally a celebration of the increase of flocks and herds, since it marks the birthing of lambs, wild boar and deer - and the original cattle. Likewise Samhain doesn't necessarily fall on what has become "Halloween" (a corruption of "All Hallows Eve", the evening preceding All Saints) which is, again, an amalgam of several similar pagan festivals celebrating Harvest, honouring the dead, and invoking local 'gods' and spirits to tide one over the winter. By switching the focus to a commemoration of the "Saints" who set us an example, and adding a commemoration of all those departed this life, the early church created a moment for reflection on life and thanksgiving following the intense labour of the summer, the harvest and the preparations for the long cold, lean months of the winter.

There is a logic to the progression of the festivals and feasts the Church adopted and it has worked very well, by and large. Of course one could argue that some of the original focus has been lost - no one would, I think, disagree that since the 1850s at least, Christmas has been gradually turned into a shopping extravaganza. One could also be excused for wondering what some folk think they are really celebrating in their church/family traditions, and I will confess to being a little concerned at some practices.

What has always intrigued me, and which I have still not been able to find an answer to, is the question of the reason why so many very diverse cultures chose to mark similar festivals at very similar periods. Christianity has adopted largely northern and western European festivals, but one can find similar festivals and seasons in many other cultures. Some, obviously, are related to the 'cycle' of the agricultural year, while others are not. Answers on a postcard please ...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Middle East's 'Christian Winter'

It is rare for the BBC to post something that acknowledges the fact the Christians are suffering, so, when they do, it is worth getting it more widely read. In the article, "A Point of View: The long winter for the Middle East's Christians" the author, a resident of Delhi, India, makes a number of interesting points about both the seldom mentioned co-existence of Christians and Muslims, but how some of the 'sayings of Jesus' not found in Christian literature, can be found in Islamic books. It is that co-existence that is now threatened, and being systematically destroyed, by the hardline fundamentalists who have taken over the 'Arab Spring'.

In Egypt alone, some 14 million Christians are increasingly the target of attacks. Prior to the civil war in Syria, some 10% of the population were Christian, and to them must be added the Christians driven out of Iraq post the war on Saddam. Now they are being driven out again as al-Qaeda inspired Salafists take control of the revolution and target Christians as 'the enemy of the Prophet'. Turkey has a large Christian population and once, Iran had some 6% of the population as Christians. They were decimated during the war with Iraq, mostly used to clear minefields or lead suicide attacks on Iraqi positions. Today only about 1% of the Iraqi population is Christian, the rest have been driven out, forced to convert, or killed off. Nor is this unique. Pakistan has allowed the fundamentalist Mullahs to wage an undeclared and unacknowledged campaign against Christian communities since Independence - yet it is never acknowledged by the western media.

It is refreshing therefore to see it mentioned 'en passant' by William Dalrymple. The article is a fair one, though he does focus more on the fact that there was co-operation and mutual respect in the past - and not much on the realities of the present. Still, it is a start, and a glimmer of light being shone into a murky area the media - and the BBC in particular - usually try to ignore.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Attacking Faith?

It has been recently claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed each year, and that most 'qualify' as martyrs. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, a journalist writing for the BBC news, has questioned the numbers and the whole question of whether they can be called 'martyrs'. She attempts, in true media style, to reduce the numbers by excluding all those killed in civil wars on the grounds that 'they would have been casualties anyway'. She continues by attempting to argue that the presence of Muslim fighters on the 'other side' doesn't prove that the killings are motivated by an 'anti-Christian' movement.

This ignores, as the organisation which produced the figure states, the fact that two-thirds of the world's Christians live in 'non-Christian' countries, many of them actively hostile to Christianity. That covers all Muslim ruled countries, despite the protestations that they 'allow' the practice of other faiths. The truth is that, from the moment a child enters the school system - if they are allowed to - they are under pressure to convert to Islam. As adults they are often excluded from holding any position of authority if it places them over Muslims. The practice of their religion is also proscribed, with rules forbidding them to discuss it with Muslims or to attempt to convert anyone to it. In at least one Middle Eastern country, even the holding of services in churches is structly controlled by the state - and services can be cancelled without notice. In one I visited, Christians met in the hall of a primary school - but their use of it depended on the man who held the keys, and he frequently 'went away' on the days services were due to be held, taking the keys with him.

Throughout the lands once Christian in the Middle East, Christianity is being driven out. Laws forbidding the appointment of Bishops or Patriarchs 'trained outside of the country' are in force - and so are the laws which closed down the training colleges for the priesthood. The current Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul) will very likely be the last, since Turkey has a law that makes it illegal for this post to be held by anyone from outside Turkey. The lands that were the cradle of Christianity are being purged of Christians. The world knows, the UN knows, the media ignores it.

Something I have noted the government, the Church of England  and the media fail to mention is that Israel has a growing Christian population, while the neighbouring Muslim States - and the 'Palestinian Territories' in particular, have a net exodus of Christians. This is due to several factors, the first is most likely the constant threat from their neighbours, certainly there are economic factors in play, but one cannot ignore the frequent attacks, and murder of Christians. What is not acknowledged by the various supposedly 'neutral' Muslim governments is that their laws against 'blasphemy' and for the 'protection' of Islam are frequently used to obtain the judicial mureder of Christians, their dispossession or to drive them out of communities.

The ignorant journalists are patently unaware of the fact that a Christian reciting any of the Christian Creeds, is committing 'blasphemy' according to the teaching of Islam. This is being used in Egypt, Syria and several other Muslim States by fundamentalists to kill Christians and seize their property. In Pakistan it is not uncommon to find Christians being accused of 'insulting the Prophet' or 'insulting the Quran'. One such case did get a mention, probably because it involved a young woman, but there are many more that don't get a mention at all. In Northern Nigeria Christians are the daily target of Islamic fundamentalists attempting to succeed from Nigeria and who wish to create an Islamic State there. Even in the UK, there is pressure, in predominantly Muslim areas on 'Christians', though this is not always obvious, and certainly not acknowledged.

Sadly it is not just in Muslim countries that the Christian Faith is under attack. 'Inclusive' religious education presents a very biased picture to children of what the major faiths teach and believe. In presenting them all as 'essentially the same', Christianity is reduced. Add in the onslaught of media promotion of the humanist and atheist mantra that all religion is 'just mythology' and you begin to understand the reason that the latest Polls give a picture of a country where those who admit a faith are equalled by those who admit none.

Whether the number of 'Christian Martyrs' per year is 100,000, 1,000 or 1 is, in my view, immaterial. That fact that there are any at all is a disgrace, that it is a situation ignored by politicians, twisted by the politically correct media, and denigrated as 'typical example of the stupidity of religion' by atheists is a scandal.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Ten Lords a' leaping ...

There is one Christmas Carol that always puzzled me. Sure, it was fun to sing, and has a nice tune to go with it, but what do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge in the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

The answer is that it was a way to memorise the tenets of the Roman Catholic (indeed the 'catholic') faith, and was composed during the years of the Protestant 'Presbyterianism' of Cromwell and the subsequent attempts to suppress the Roman Church in the British Isles. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in Britain and Ireland were forbidden to practice their faith openly. This carol was written as a catechism song for young Catholics, and its popularity among many 'Protestant' congregations has often amused me.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each of the things in the carol is a key word for a part of the Catechism which the children could remember. Thus -

  • -The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • -Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • -Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • -The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • -The five golden rings recalled the Pentateuch or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • -The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • -Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,  Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • -The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • -Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,  Faithfulness,Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • -The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • -The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • -The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
So there is your history for today. I found it a fascinating way to teach something to children, right under the noses of the authorities rtying to prevent it. It is a lovely song, and it is a good choice for a Christmas Carol ... so pass it on if you wish.

Christmas is a Feast with an 'Octave'. It begins at sunset on the 24th December and continues until the Eve of the Epihany on January 6th. Now you'll be wondering how eight days (an Octave) became twelve. There are four 'Saints Days' in that period, starting with the Feast of St Stephen, followed by the Holy Innocents, then (for Anglicans) Thomas Beckett and the Circumcision of Christ. So, enjoy the twelve days of Christmas!

May I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous year to come.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Rearranging Deckchairs ...

I have been watching with some amusement, the latest efforts by the Home Office to 'do something' about the 'flood' of immigrants they expect to get from Romania and Bulgaria. The Home Secretary has been making noises about 'capping' the number of immigrants from within the EU, which, as the Deputy PM has pointed out is illegal and discriminatory. It seems to have escaped the notice of the British Press however, that the Danish Interior Ministry, and the Danish EU Commissioner free movement of workers within the EU has nailed the flaw in Mrs May's arguments.

The problem is that Britain has become a magnet for those looking for handouts because it has the most generous 'benefit' system in Europe, the easiest to gain access to, and the easiest to defraud. As the Danish lady said - stop trying to restrict the numbers, and fix the system that draws them in!

That, unfortunately, isn't going to happen. I know there is a huge uproar at the moment about cuts to a wide range of benefits, but the reality is that, in real terms, it is the old pea under the cup trick. While some, often the most in need of help, are losing out, the money is simply being 'rearranged' and the cheats, the idle and the manipulative aren't losing out. The 'rights' lawyers are having a ball, and raking in cash left right and centre 'fighting' for the handouts to migrants from non-EU countries and 'vulnerable minorities' while the pensioners, disabled, and chronically sick who don't have the connections, bear the brunt of it.

Parliament can, in the meantime, award itself a pay rise, bigger pension benefits and expenses claims, but is afraid to tackle the root cause of much of the UK's financial woe - the out of control 'benefit' system. To pay for this the last government raided Pension Funds, destroying some, reducing others to near bankruptcy and accusing all pensioners of 'being a drain on the economy'. A bit rich from a bunch of professional parasites sitting on gold-plated pensions themselves, especially as 'Pensions' are not a 'Benefit'. Everyone in receipt of one has contributed toward it through their employer, through their tax and through direct contributions. In my own case an average throughout my working life of 5% of salary in direct contribution, an amount matched for most of that time by my employer. So called National Insurance is supposed to pay for 'Unemployment Benefit', pensions and, some think, the National Health Service. It currently runs at 11% of earnings, plus an employer's contribution, but most of it simply vanishes into the Whitehall Black Hole. It is not, and never has been, an 'insurance' in the same sense as a policy taken out with an insurance company, nor has a single penny of it been invested for the future.

So now we have the spectacle of politicians having set up systems to 'redistribute' wealth from some, to those they and their civil servant chums consider 'deserving' and blaming those who have paid toward pensions and security for their families, being blamed for it being unaffordable. So now they resort to fraud and deceit to find solutions. One is the move to change the Fire and Rescue Service Pension age to 60. There were, and still are, very sound medical grounds for the present maximum retirement age being 55. The Minister is being misinformed, or possibly disingenuous when he says that any fire fighter forced to leave the service before age 60 will still get a full pension. The fact is that they won't. In fact many may have to leave the service at 50 - and will lose 10 years value from it. This is in the 'Report' the relevant department cooked up - it actually admits that potentially 91% of fire fighters won't be able to meet the fitness standards at age 50 or lower!

The fire fighters are an easy target, they're high profile, and their pension scheme appears very generous, so it is easy to spread the lie it 'isn't earned'. I note the politicians aren't admitting that the fire fighters pay 11% of income into it over their 30 year careers - money that is not - again - invested, but spent by the Local Authority concerned to 'redistribute' wealth on pet projects. I was particularly angered to note on a forum I frequent, that a non-Fire fighting "Area Manager" (Old money equivalent of a Senior Divisional Officer/DO I) 'managing' that other great shibboleth "Human Resources" was arguing that fire fighters should accept that the service isn't a 'lifetime career' any longer, and the pension benefits were too generous. Rich, considering that she has parachuted into the service at the same pay as the fire fighter who used to manage that function, and is now likely to draw the pension she and others like her are trying to deny the 'resources' they are supposed to take care of.

As I said, the fire fighters, police, soldiers, ambulance workers and other 'service' personnel are easy targets. They are relatively small in numbers, so the politicians can afford to sacrifice their possible votes. Likewise the ill, the aged and the disabled. What they will NOT tackle is the massive handout culture they have created since 1909 when the 'universal pension' was first introduced. Since then we have seen 'benefit' after 'benefit' added to the list, and alongside of that we have seen the growth of industries to preserve them. So we have the 'human rights' lawyers, the Union Lobby, the Student lobby, the minorities lobby and so on - all of whom defend their particular interests with threats of disruption or mayhem if there is any attempt to address some of the imbalances that have arisen.

Pensioners are still painted as 'abusing' the system even though they have, in the main, paid for what they get. So do many of the younger folk now facing retiring (if they can) at 67, 69, 70 or later. The Danish Minister is right, Britain needs to tackle the culture of 'benefits' that are creating the unrealistic expectation of being able to live comfortably on these handouts for life without ever having to work. Only then will the 'migrancy' problem go away.

Unfortunately, that is the least likely course of action the present or any future government will take.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Wandering Weather

Snow in Egypt, blizzards in Jerusalem and Beirut, fog in the Taunus - and its cold. Reading the reports on the sea ice extent in the Arctic are interesting, as the freeze up there has been faster than expected, and while western Europe 'enjoys' a comparatively balmy run up to Christmas, further east the big freeze has hit. What fascinates me is the fact that snow is not unknown in Lebanon, Syria, Israel or Jordan. It isn't exactly unknown in Egypt either, but the last time it was this heavy in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel is around 60 years ago, and the last time Egypt got this much is over 100 years ago.

Watching the weather maps and satellite images on television here in Germany one can see the great loops of cold air rippling down from the Arctic and bringing the heavy stuff and the cold down over the North Eastern US and over Central and Eastern Europe into Turkey and the countries south of it.

I now eagerly await the IPCC and Greenpeace et all 'explaining' how all this is 'Climate Change' and 'Anthropomorphic Global Warming'. Should be some very creative ideas and suggestions in there. They still don't seem to want to acknowledge that the Antarctic ice sheet has grown in the last few years - the Emperor penguin population has an extra 35 kilometres to walk to their winter nesting spot as a result. Perhaps we can hope for an acknowledgement of some of the uncertainties in their 'models' at last? I won't hold my breath though.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Media Bias: Reflections of Political bias?

An interesting recent development is the change of direction on the subject of Israel by the Australian Federal government. The announcement by the Australian Foreign Minister that Australia would once again 'support' Israel in the UN General Assembly has triggered the usual torrent of outrage from the pro-Palestinian media sources. The fact is that the General Assembly is one of the reasons I personally consider the UN to be a complete waste of space and money. What the Minister has exposed is the fact that it is biased. There can be no resolution of the vexed question of the existence of Israel or of the status of the 'Palestinian State' - a UN General Assembly fiction - unless and until the General Assembly stops its anti-Israel campaigns.

As one of the General Assembly's interpreters accidentally exposed in an unguarded remark on an 'open' microphone -

I mean, I think when you have five statements, not five, like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything about the other stuff.
and this was just a reference to a single session! The fact is that many of the ambassadors seated in the General Assembly are anti-Israel and anti-Jew. Many represent regimes that are far from democratic, do not respect 'human rights' of their own citizens, and have no intention of allowing anyone to discuss their own offences. So Israel makes a perfect 'whipping boy' and the mass media of the world thrives on it since it feeds into the inherent anti-Semitic rhetoric of the socialist left. Oh yes, they always deny that, claiming that being 'anti-zionist' or 'anti-Israel' isn't the same as being 'anti-semitic'. Some go further and claim that as 'all Middle Eastern peoples, including the 'Palestinians' are 'Semitic Peoples' being anti-Israel can't be anti-semitic'. All I can say, in polite language, is garbage. This is pure and simple semantics, splitting hairs and trying to hide their hatred behind yet another web of lies.
The fact is that 'Palestine' didn't exist in name before the British Mandate, and then it included all of what is now the Kingdom of Jordan. The Roman 'Province' actually included all of Syria and Lebanon and most of the Sinai and the British application of the name to the lands of the ancient kingdoms Judea, Israel, and the Transjordan was, as usual, a result of a Whitehall/Westminster misinterpretation of the history. It gets worse, of course, when you realise that there were no such people as 'Palestinians' until Yasser Arafat named the refugees that in the 1970s - and the Arab world immediately saw the political capital to be made out of playing this 'racist' card at every opportunity. And the Jew hating western intelligentsia fell for it.
The UN General Assembly completely ignores that fact that the 1948 'Peace' agreement actually accepted an Israel that included what is now called 'the Occupied Territories' and the whole of Jerusalem. The 'occupiers' immediately after the Agreement was signed, were Jordan and Egypt, who invaded Israel in a surprise attack before the ink on the signatures was even dry. From 1948 until they were ejected in the 1967 war, Jordan and Egypt had massive military presences in both the West Bank (which the King of Jordan regarded as part of his 'Kingdom', and Gaza, which Egypt treated as a 'province'.  Political chicanery at the UN between the UK, the Arab world, the USSR and the 'emerging' nations of Africa and elsewhere, slowly but surely managed to undermine, in the minds of their electorates, the 1948 agreement. Since the 1970s we have been fed a constant diet of Israel being the 'occupiers' and the Arabs as 'the liberators'. Now, we are fed the fiction that Israel is an 'apartheid' state which 'denies the Palestinians their rights'. 
Central to this is, of course, the Jewish 'settlers' moving into the 'Palestinian' lands. I find it interesting that the land for these 'settlements' is being bought and paid for at market prices. Nor is the money coming from the Israeli state, it is private money, and private enterprise which is doing it. The land isn't being 'seized' or 'confiscated' as some media reports have it. Plus, the Israeli government doesn't grant permission for new settlements, it does so only in those areas that it will never include in any future 'redistribution' of land, largely in the area immediately adjacent to Jerusalem itself. But that is not how it is reported by the biased and bigoted western media.
What is NOT reported by the western media, or discussed in the UN General Assembly, is the daily refusal of the Arab/Muslim media, governments and peoples to honour agreements that give Jewish worshippers access to some of the most sacred places in the Jewish faith. Jews are regularly harassed if the attempt to visit the Temple Mount, and are forbidden to pray there. The monthly pilgrimages to the Tomb of Joseph in Judea (part of the West Bank) is regularly reported in Arab media as a 'Jewish Invasion of sacred sites to practise Talmudic rituals'. This is an effort to equate any practise of worship by Jews as the practise of some of the more unsavoury falsehoods of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sadly most of the western anti-Jew journalists do believe that this Tsarist forgery is the truth - as did a certain Hr. Hitler. In fact the Protocols are a text book in many Muslim schools in that region supposedly to 'warn the children not to trust Jews'. But, of course, that can't be 'anti-semitic' because it's Semites calling Semites names - isn't it?
Why do western journalists and intelligentsia of the left hate the Jews? Why do they wish to destroy Israel? In the UK I suspect it has to do with the fact that the Jews refused to be the victims of a second Holocaust and rejected the British 'solution' for Palestine. Whitehall and Westminster wanted to hand the whole of that territory to the Jordanians, despite the declared intention of the Jordanians of 'cleansing' the land of 'Jews'. As in India, the British government felt the locals were just being childish and would settle the 'squabble'. If they didn't - well, it wasn't going to be 'our' problem any longer. So they staffed the Jordanian army with British officers, set up an all Arab police force and then scuttled out from under. It didn't quite go to plan. The nasty Jews ended up in possession of everything west of the Jordan, and the Arabs who had 'escaped' on the advice of their own side, wound up dispossessed.
The UK did its best at the negotiating table at the fledgling UN to prevent the deal, but, in the end, had to accept the de facto 'Two State' solution in being. The Arabs wouldn't, so immediately they left the negotiating table - attempted to rub out the new state. And they lost. Since then there has been a campaign of propaganda against Israel. Two more wars have taught them nothing, and the passage of time has taught those supposedly intelligent westerners who hate Israel nothing either.
Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish state and its religious centre for almost 3,000 years. Since the recovery of East Jerusalem quite a lot of evidence of this has been found - despite the efforts of some sections of the archaeological profession to suppress or 'reinterpret it. More would be found if the Waqf (the committee of Muslims who control, by international agreement which Israel honours) in charge of 'protecting' the Al Aqsa mosque would allow the proper examination of the site. Instead they have embarked on a deliberate campaign to destroy all traces of any Jewish presence there - even undermining the mount itself in building massive subterranean 'mosques' in the face of advice to the contrary. It's all an Israeli attempt to destroy the mosque and rebuild the Temple according to them. Despite all the claims made by Muslim 'scholars' to Jerusalem being the third 'holiest' site in Islam, it is not mentioned even once in the Quran. Not as Al Quds or as Jerusalem. The 'Prophet' was never there, and it was not until the Arab conquests that it became anything at all to their faith. But, of course, truth is the first casualty in any propaganda war - and this is a war of hate speak and hate propaganda. 
I suspect there are two main reasons there are so many in the west who cannot bring themselves to accept the right of the Jewish people to exist. The first is religious. Many fundamentalist Christians still cling to a far too literal interpretation of parts of the New Testament. The gospel of John is NOT anti-Jew. He uses the term 'The Jews' (in the KJV) to refer to the ruling classes who were, like our present generation, 'religious' when they needed to be and the rest of the time denigrated everything and anything about their faith. Thus, the utterances so often quoted by the religious Jew haters, is misunderstood and misinterpreted. They should direct their bile at the rulers of every land - not just Israel. The second is a perception of self-righteousness. Israel dares to try to behave like a 'western' democracy in a region where none 'should' exist.
Israel is a democratic state. It has first class hospitals, every Israeli citizen has a vote, there are even 'Palestinians' in the Knesset as elected representatives. If we listen to certain 'Christian' media, Christianity is being 'driven out' by the Israelis, but that isn't the truth - the numbers of Christians with Israeli citizenship is increasing. Israel is a 'secular' state and all religions are free to practise there. It must be one of the ironies that the so-called 'Palestinains' could end their isolation tomorrow by simply voting to become Israeli citizens, but you won't find that being discussed anywhere by the pro-Palestinian support teams. Israel's 'crime' in the eyes of western supporters of 'Palestine' is that it does practise 'western values' for its population. As one such campaigner put it; "they claim to be supporters of western values - so we must hold them to a higher standard than we expect of their neighbours." There we have the double standard. Israel must obey the standards set by the anti-Israel campaigners and become like the dictatorships all the rest of the Arab-Islamic world suffers. Presumably so these bleeding hearts can feel sorry for the 'poor downtrodden Jews' when they are again subjected to a renewed Holocaust.
The Australian government has taken a bold step. It is to be hoped that the US, the EU and the UK will now step up to the mark and take a similar stance. The PLO, Fatah and Hamas have made plain their ambitions - not for a state in the West Bank and Gaza, but for the control of the whole of Israel. The PLO representative to the UN is on record saying he supports the expulsion of every Jew from Israel, but there has not been a single mention of this in the western media. Ironic isn't it that I read this in a Middle Eastern source.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Reflections on an Era

The death of Nelson Mandela has prompted me to write something on my own memories of the South Africa I grew up in, and finally left forever in January 1988. It is very easy to put on the rose tinted spectacles, drag out the whitewash and try to pretend it was a straightforward and simple situation, but it wasn't. It was very complex, and despite the manner in which the 'history' is now being written by the winners, it wasn't by any means all one way, although it did, post the 1960s very rapidly become increasingly oppressive. I think very few of us, from the "European" tribes there realised just how insidious the Nationalist Party mechanism was. Certainly some aspects of it really only became clear once I had left the country and could access information not available to me while in SA.

For instance I did not fully appreciate just how closely the Nationalist organisations and structures resembled those of the National Sozialist Demokratische Arbeiters Partei - better known as the Nazi Party outside Germany. It had similar structures 'directing' and controlling many things I think most of us never even suspected. Committees 'organised' military housing, 'managed' Police promotions and even directed the Union I belonged to. The Chairmen of these 'steering' committees often had direct access to Ministers and even the State President himself. The Press and Media were tightly controlled, so we were fed a diet of news 'approved' by the Department of Information, and though we knew it was biased, we had no alternative references available to inform our understanding or our world view. Many of those who demanded sanctions and boycotts played directly into the narrative the Nat propagandists wanted to present, unwittingly (or perhaps deliberately) giving them wonderful ammunition to feed us.

Apartheid has its roots in the attitudes and mindsets of the 19th Century, in which all 'native' peoples were regarded as 'inferior' and 'primitives' to be patronised and 'provided for' by their European 'fathers'. It was founded in ideas stemming from the Theory of Evolution and of course, reached it's ultimate form in the Eugenics Theories of the 1900 - 1945 period. The division of power (and wealth) in South Africa was enshrined in the Constitution of the Union in 1910. This provided for "Native Commissioners" to "represent" the tribal peoples and lands in Parliament, set aside the Tribal Homelands as 'reservations' and envisaged the African tribes as being incapable of rising to the heights of civilised society. It must be one of the great ironies that this was written in Whitehall despite reservations expressed by "colonial" politicians in the four colonies soon to be amalgamated into the new Union.

"Apartheid", the Afrikaans word meaning "Separation" was the brainchild of the Nationalist Party. It began in the 1930s with some 'minor' changes to the Constitution which changed the representation of the African population in Parliament. The outbreak of the second World War brought a change of government, Malan's Nationalists were replaced by Smuts' United Party, and South Africa sent its volunteer forces to liberate Abyssinia and then fight in Egypt, just as they had done in 1914 - 1918 in South West Africa, Tanganyika, Gallipoli (you never hear of that one!) and Flanders, as well as to sea in the RN, RNVR and the fledgling SANF, the RAF and the fledgling SAAF. Unfortunately Smuts lost the election in 1947 and the new Nationalist government lost no time in introducing changes to the constituency boundaries which more or less guaranteed they would always have a majority.

Many of their leading members had spent the war in internment because they supported the Nazi cause and embarked on a campaign of sabotage to weaken the South African war effort. Now they brought all of that evil ideology into government. Of course nothing happened overnight, they'd learned how to manipulate the system, the people and to subtly take control of key positions, key Ministries, the military and the police in ways that would not be obvious or arouse opposition. The architects of all this were Verwoerd, Vorster, Malan and Hertzog. Verwoerd hated the British, and by association, the English speaking half of the white South African population. Vorster was no better, and people really should have taken note even that early.

Little changes gradually began to bite, and the ANC to organise. As a school child one was aware of the tensions, but never really understood them. On the one hand we could see that Africans didn't behave or live as we did. They were different, they lived in their own villages and travelled on their own buses, trains and so on. The first major upheaval came, in my memory, with the violent murder, and some reports stated the 'muti' consumption of parts of the bodies, of two white nuns on a visit to Duncan Village on the West Bank of the Buffalo River. We heard people discussing these events, and we were aware that our fathers were possibly to be recalled to uniform as it was expected that the violence would spread and become a general uprising. Some of my school friends, whose parents farmed in what was then the Transkei, were frightened that their parents might be murdered and their homes destroyed, but, as children, we noticed only the absence of Africans in the city centre and in other areas of our daily lives where we normally encountered them and interacted with them.

What is very obvious with the benefit of hindsight and now distance, is that it is very difficult when growing up in that sort of society, to develop a balanced and unbiased view of the country, or of the rights and wrongs of the society you live in. For me that awareness really didn't begin to develop until the mid-1970s. By then I could see the impact of the policies on my 'non-European' friends in the Indian, Chinese and Coloured communities. I had long been aware of the manner in which the apartheid system impacted Africans, but, as I didn't have many acquaintances in that group, and those I did know tended to be better educated and wealthier, it seemed more a question of social and cultural difference. I must also admit that the campaigns of bombings, shootings and ambushes, to murder 'whites', coupled with the daily murders in the 'townships' motivated by rival political ambitions, definitely coloured my view. As they say, when you stand to close to the trees, you can't always see the forest.

The real campaigns of violence began in the 1960s, possibly with Sharpville. Horrible as that was, it pales into insignificance against similar events against demonstrators in recent years, but Sharpville is supposedly 'unique' in that it was a 'white' oppressor acting against 'Blacks'. The violence escalated year on year from there, and was certainly not one sided, nor was it simply Black/White. Different factions fought one another for ascendancy, and the big players in the Cold War all had a finger and sometimes a whole hand in it. The ANC wasn't the only player. They're still not, though one now seldom hears of the Pan African Congress (Marxist) or the Azania Peoples Party (Maoist) and one or two others. The USSR, China and North Korea all supplied arms, explosives and training to their particular favourites of the moment. The west tacitly propped up the Nationalist government in return for military intelligence and sometimes Russian and Chinese hardware captured in battle.

As a fire fighter I was one among many caught in the middle. We were shot at, petrol bombed, acid bombed and occasionally stabbed when were not being subjected to stone throwing. The stone throwing became something we expected, but it was always interesting to note that it usually was absent if there were no foreign TV crews present. No TV, no stone throwing, no other forms of assault on us. As I have said there were factions involved as well, and there were, in my personal experience, many more 'black on black' murders and terror attacks, then there were on whites. The 'Winnie Necklace' was a particularly hideous form of execution practised by ANC cadres on anyone accused of 'informing' and, as a fire fighter I saw far too many of these.

As in Germany under the Nazis, not everyone was supportive of the apartheid regime or the ideology. Indeed, Connie Mulder, as Minister for the Interior (Home Secretary) actually regarded English speaking South Africans as untrustworthy (as in we wouldn't vote for the Nats and their policies) and proposed stripping us of our vote, or making us 'second class citizens' with a limited version of the vote. By the 1970s the National Party had managed to gain complete control of the civil service, the television and radio services, the military and the police. Even the Fire Service was, in some Provinces, subject to the oversight of political committees they operated in every facet of the nation's life. Again, this is something one only really appreciated once you stood back and stepped outside of it. Now I can see how we were told what to think, how to act, what was considered 'correct'. It was subtle, you might have reservations, you might even on occasion refuse, but somehow, when you did, you were bypassed and someone else took over. It came as a shock to me when, after I'd left SA, to learn that I had twice been 'investigated' by the Security Police because I'd made proposals that did not meet the approval of members of the political committee 'interested' in our service on one, and because I was a member of my Bishop's Committee for Reconciliation on the other.

What the media have covered in great detail is the 'wrongs' and confessions of the key players from the police and government against the Black population. What is never mentioned are the camps maintained by the ANC for 're-education' of people they had abducted, or the multiple murders of their own people who dared to disagree with their campaigns. I have never heard a word of apology or sympathy for the many innocent victims of bombings perpetrated on stations, in restaurants or bus stops in the name of 'the cause' from the many who praised those, but condemned any arrest, any application of justice for murder. They have never had to deal with the shattered lives, torn and dismembered bodies of the victims - but can pontificate and justify any assault on a 'white' person as long as it is in some country a long way away. What they seem to be unable to connect is the link between all terrorist activities in every country. These same people have no trouble it seems labelling one group "freedom fighters" and another "terrorist" because they happen to be on a different side, or in a different situation.

I have mixed feelings on Nelson Mandela. He was, after all, the Head of the ANC's military wing and instrumental in the planning, supplying and organising of much of the terrorism of the 1960s. The evidence against him at his trial was overwhelming and he knew it, even making a statement to the court that the organisation intended the violent overthrow of the regime. Desmond Tutu wrote what is probably the best obituary we will see for "The Madiba". In it he wrote that the 27 years Mandela spent in prison are probably what made him what he became - a man of great understanding, vision and compassion. I think the Archbishop is right, and perhaps that is what we should all learn from the events that produced him.

It was not easy living in the apartheid South Africa, even for a 'white' person. There was always an element of threat; there was always the vilification from outside the country, and, if one could travel abroad, one soon discovered what it felt like to be a pariah as soon as it was revealed that you were from South Africa. At home, if one dared question anything 'official' there was always the threat to your job, or of a visit from the Security police. It was not a nice place to be, especially as there was little most of us could do to change any of it.

The Madiba is dead. He was a remarkable man, even a great man, though that was probably thrust upon him. South Africa will miss him. Sadly I very much doubt there is anyone in South Africa now with the same degree of integrity or compassion. It is my fear that his legacy will be squandered in the coming years to the detriment of all the peoples of that land.    

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Could This be Why We're in Trouble?

The report by Mr Neary in the BBC regarding the manner in which his autistic son is 'managed' by Social Services might explain a bit about what is wrong with the UK today. It certainly goes a long way towards explaining how many of our 'services' have become unanswerable and worse, unaccountable. But, who can challnge them? Everything is concealed by the use of 'jargon', and worse, the people they are supposed to 'help' are treated as objects incapable of thinking for themselves and unable to decide what is good for themselves. Mr Neary's case is far from unique, though he probably is unique in having taken the social services in this case to court and winning.

Social Services were set up to look after the vulnerable in our society, but, like a lot of good ideas, have been overtaken by the 'systemisers' and 'processers'. It has become a self perpetuating 'industry' in which its all about 'numbers' and 'procedures' and not about looking after people as individuals. This particular instance involves the Social Services, but almost all the 'new' professions that have arisen since the 1960s do it. Everything is about creating a niche, a permanent home for all those who like to feel they are 'caring' about something. The first thing that inevitably arises is an opaque 'jargon' which only insiders can actually interpret. It builds a mystique around whatever the profession does, and prevents outsiders from seeing or understanding how it operates or what it really does.

Some of my former colleagues will recall how our own profession was highjacked by a small group who suddenly got the 'education' bug. It wasn't long and everything was reduced to acronyms which most of us couldn't interpret. We went to meetings and listened as the 'experts' delivered briefings that consisted entirely of acronyms linked by a few verbs, articles and the odd noun. I once sat and listed every acronym used and when the bright spark giving the briefing finally asked 'any questions?' stuck my hand up and asked where I could find a list of the 43 acronyms I'd noted which would enable me to interpret them into English. There was no answer, and I think I was removed from the management Christmas Card list at that point.

One of the prime examples of the manner this quasi-professional jargon is used to exclude or to control access must be the Politically Correct process which dictates that no one may identify any group as being more likely to commit some offence, or more likely to be 'at risk' of something. The result is that everyone is now regarded as a potential criminal, or of being 'at risk' of dying in a fire starting in their kitchen due to falling asleep while heating a pot full of oil to make chips. Everyone - particularly pensioners - are suspected of 'fiddling' their tax returns and hiding income, but not, it seems those with mega incomes and clever accountants who make sure the money stays in tax havens. Every home must now be 'disabled friendly' in case the occupant is disabled - or a disbaled person wishes to buy it. Everyone is considered to be potentially racist, sexist or any other -ist, particularly those who profess to be followers of Christianity.

This 'process' imposition on every aspect of our lives is, in my view, one of the major reasons our society is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. By allowing quasi-professions like Social Services to reduce us all to 'cases', by allowing the family courts to hold sessions 'in camera' and accept evidence that would not be given to time of day in any other court, we are slowly but surely dehumanising the very people we are supposedly trying to help - and in dehumanising them, we lose something ourselves.

The second aspect to this that is deeply disturbing is that we are conceding power and control to these opaque professions. Their jargon passes for 'expert speak' and sounds 'professional' but it conceals the opposite. Much of it isn't scientific at all, it just sounds good. As the example given by Mr Neary illustrates: if you or I make a choice, it is a simple 'choice'. If someone in the care of Social Services makes the same choice - they are 'being empowered'. If one of us loses their temper, we get it off our chests. If someone in the 'care' system loses their temper, it requires a 'case review', followed by 'anger management training' and a 'risk management plan', somewhere along the line involving at least one psychologist for an 'assessment'.

When one reads of this and similar cases, one does begin to wonder if we have all taken collective leave of our senses. We actually believe this 'processification' and 'objectification' of the subjects is good for society? As I said, Social Services does do some good work, but all too often the good work is undone by a slavish adherence to 'procedure'. The powers over us all that have been given to the ubiquitous "Social Worker" are far greater than most Trading Standards Officers or Fire Safety Inspectors wield, and most have less legal training. Surely we can find a less soulless approach? Surely we can find a way that doesn't become so bureaucratic and rule bound it loses sight of children and adults who really are at risk while dealing in an often draconian manner with those who are trying to follow the rules?

The more I look at this, the more convinced I become that we are in trouble. We've allowed a lot of very smart people to highjack key parts of our lives, and now they have entrenched themselves - at the expense of the very people they are supposedly helping (see Mr Neary's comments on the closeure of Day Centres) and covering their deceits in jargon.

After each and every failure of 'care' by a Social Services Department we hear the same excuse, and the same 'remedy'. "We are revising our procedures" or "we are understaffed and underfunded". But, as I said, we should not look only at Social Services, there are numerous other 'industries' now all building little empires, all with their own jargon, all with their own clientele and all demanding ever bigger handouts to fund their 'activity'.

It is time we took a long hard look at all of them and demanded proper, jargin and acronym free answers. Until we do we will not get anywhere near repairing the divisions in a society that is becoming more fractured with each passing year.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Economic Disaster Looming

Yesterday's video clip from MoneyWeek got me digging. What I have turned up (far from a complete picture I confess) has got me deeply concerned. There was some further fuel added late last night when I read a report that one of the largest circulation Chinese daily papers ran an editorial basically saying that China didn't need Britain, "a small and no longer significant nation that has impoverished itself and has nothing to offer China". Sadly, I suspect they may well be right on the money despite the Prime Minister's much vaunted 6 billion pound trade deals. I note he didn't say which way the 6 billion would be going - to Britain or to China.

We should all be deeply concerned by the fact that our National Debt has shot through the 'billions' and is now over 1.4 trillion Pounds. We need to be even more concerned over the fact that, despite the much vaunted 'cuts' in all manner of 'services' and 'benefits' the overall spending in Whitehall has actually increased. This is not a new phenomenon, Whitehall 'cuts' and 'savings' always seem to translate into increases in their overall budgets. All talk of 'value for money' almost invariably means a reduction in delivery and a massive hike in the cost of whatever it is. Th awful truth of our National Debt is that it is over 9x the National GDP. Put another way, the Demand on the "Money Supply" is 9 times greater than the Supply. This can't go on.

But the terrible truth is that neither Parliament (the prime source of the problem) nor Whitehall are capable of dealing with it. Even if they wanted to, the truth is that the either haven't a clue as to how to do so, or, they are afraid to.

So what will happen if the country runs out of money? Who will really suffer?

My studies of the late Roman Empire and its collapse revealed that the majority of Middle and Working Class folk were the first victims. The rich and powerful carved out little fiefdoms for themselves, hired soldiers and sat tight, the middle classes and the workers found themselves being squeezed for massive tax demands, then for 'protection' and finally surrendered their property and liberty just for food and shelter. The wealthy families survived, eventually becoming, through marriages, 'little' wars and adoption of the tactics of the barbarian invaders, the 'noble' families who ruled Europe until the wars of Revolution in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

I suspect something similar is about to happen in Britain.

Let's take a look at what will happen if the government can no longer service its debt and the money supply dries up. As in Greece, the first to be hit will be those who depend on the State for their income. Civil Servants, teachers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police, soldiers, sailors and airmen, pensioners, the disabled, students and the unemployed. Health services will be crippled, those with debts, mortgages, loans and so on will no longer be able to pay for them. Unemployment and homelessness will soar, so will the need for food depots, child protection and so on. Some communities, where there is a strong community support ethic (the Muslim groups come to mind) will survive by coming together and taking care of their own as they do in the Middle East and elsewhere, the richer members of families providing the basics for the less fortunate. For the rest, used to "The Government" providing everything, there will be a major problem as the Greeks have discovered. You can't feed a family out of grow bags on the balcony of a flat, you might if you have a greenhouse or an allotment, but both of those will become very vulnerable to the desperate hungry who don't have access to such facilities themselves.

There will be riots over the cessation of 'benefits' and certainly the likes of the National Union of Students will embark on campaigns of anarchy over their Student Grants and Loans being stopped. They will be joined by others dependent on the hand-out culture we have created, and both will simply make the situation ten times worse. We can be sure a number of expensive projects will cease. The new aircraft carriers being one, but others will include things like road maintenance, keeping the rail infrastructure up to date and so on. Health care will become basic - unless you can pay for it yourself - and we can expect fuel to become increasingly expensive and scarce. That will mean cold homes for many, which, coupled with minimal food supplies will mean a rise in deaths from disease and the cold.

While Whitehall will desperately target all the 'High Profile' projects and Services (Fire, Military, Student Grants and Loans, Pensioners and so on) they will be saving 'pennies' simply because they will not dare to tackle the real cause of the problem - the major slice of the money we overspend from the Treasury goes on the 'Welfare Benefit' handouts and the massive Whitehall machine that administers it. Defence, even including the new carriers, is under 2% of our GDP, less than most of Europe spends, half what the US spends (in equivalent terms) and less than a quarter of what many Middle Eastern and 'Developing' nations we currently give Aid to, spend. By contrast, according to some sources (it is difficult to make sense of some figures since the 'benefits' now handed out are spread across several Departments and not, as one would think, under one umbrella) our 'Welfare' bill accounts for around 50% of GDP!

So far all the 'austerity' measures have done little more than rearrange the deck chairs on this sinking ship. The HMRC (as a friend discovered this week) is so desperate to find extra money they are now 'auditing' pensioners in the hope of finding hidden billions in undeclared savings. As my friend reported, the pennies they do find are far outweighed in real terms by the cost of these 'teams' chasing them. Those who do have the sort of money the HMRC would love to tax have it where it can't be got at, or have used all the loopholes in the Tax book to protect it. The only option now for the Treasury is to 'nationalise' all the 'private wealth' such as savings and private (invested) pension funds as has been done in some of the Eastern European countries trying to get their debt under control.

It is obvious that this situation cannot continue. We're broke, living on the Credit Card and praying for a Lottery win. Parliament can't fix it, Whitehall won't. So, sooner or later, we're going to go bust. All most of us can do, at this stage, is hope and pray we can weather the catastrophe somehow, and make sure that the government can, in the end, be remodelled, its powers to give away what isn't theirs in the first place restricted and at least some of the best of our society and culture salvaged.

It isn't a good picture, and the troubling part is that it is very likely that those who caused it all will be the ones who survive with wealth and power intact.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Tipping Point for our economies?

A few weeks ago the Monk wrote about the way our 'economists' always assume that population growth, means growing economies and growing productivity and pointed out that this isn't necessarily true. Today I have watched a video on the MoneyWeek website. It is shocking, but, sadly, it is frighteningly accurate.

I commend to everyone reading this blog, take time out to watch and listen to this. The truth, as I've long suspected, is that the politicians and civil servants haven't the faintest idea of how to deal with this problem. They are trapped in a cage of their own making. They've set up a system of handouts and promises which are unfunded and based on only the desire to buy votes by promising more and more. They're all guilty of it - even the 'austerity coalition'.

It isn't only the costs of pensions, welfare benefit and the NHS, the biggest burden is the cost of the huge bureaucracy they've created alongside their "welfare" promises. If this video is right, things can only get a whole lot worse. Whitehall has no reserves, they've never invested a penny to pay for anything they've promised, and the MPs and Civil Servants are the only people who have made sure their positions, incomes and pensions are protected.

Do take the time to listen to this - then I suggest think about how you can protect yourself.