A Divisive Issue for the Freedom Movement

I don’t choose to write about this issue on Halloween from any lack of concern about its seriousness, but the very different views on this traditional celebration are a good place to start. My hope is that, by observing this difference about one topic that’s not very emotive, we might be able to do the same about another that in my experience can sunder fast friends and close allies like no other.

While Neo-Pagans celebrate the old Celtic Quarter Feast of Samhain this evening, tracing a line of continuity with the customs and beliefs of an ancient community that—like all religious claims based on historical fact—is contentious, to most families in the UK, Halloween is a bit of fun for the kids, a bit of careful safeguarding for the adults and no more religious than St Valentine’s Day.

The reaction of the western liberal and even fairly traditional Church includes a similar sense of indulgence, while stressing the significance of the images of ghosts and goblins—similar to that of the gargoyles on the Cathedral of Notre Dame—and that of the name: the Eve of All Hallows, the evening before All Saints Day. More Evangelical/ Pentecostal communities, especially those whose members originate from Africa, take the light-hearted devilry of the day extremely seriously, as evidence of Satanism. What the congregants of the latter religion feel about folk dressing up as demons I have no idea. Finally, commercial interests clearly see it as yet another way to make money selling unhealthy snacks and non-biodegradable single-use tat.

So that’s Halloween; what about abortion?

Stop for a moment and observe your immediate reaction: anger? sadness? dismay and disbelief? dispassion? Only you know why you feel about this issue as you do, and only you know the reason for the strength of that feeling.

A thought experiment—what would what is sometimes described as “the Freedom Movement” be like if everyone felt the same way as you do about this most divisive issue? What if everyone felt the opposite?

Breathe. Is it vitally important to you that we all are unanimous in support of your opinion on this topic? Can you allow for freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression?

Would it be possible for you to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who differs slightly, or even distinctly, from your stance? Could you accept their freedom to choose their own political path, even while utterly disagreeing with their ethical judgement?

Let’s break it down, because abortion means many things to many people but in terms of ethics the components are fairly clear: termination of a pregnancy (viable or not) by the action of an agent (self or other) with the intent to end the life in the womb (or at least begin that process inside and end it outside).

Ethics can seem like a cold calculation. It analyses according to categories, attempting to cut up the complexity of human experience to fit it into little conceptual boxes—but as the wonderful Professor Martha Nussbaum says,

…this is not how it feels to be in that situation. It does not feel like solving a puzzle

(The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge: University Press, 2001, p.32)

Before we continue let’s address a common reaction to any man venturing an opinion on this most female issue. Standpoint epistemology is a fancy name for “I know cos I am one/ cos I’ve done this/ cos I was there”. It’s a seductive stance and very popular these days, especially on social media but, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means accepting absurdities like “only cows have a say in their welfare”, “only astronauts can argue about footage of the moon landings” and “only the dead have a stake in their funeral arrangements”.

That said, anyone who could not possibly be faced with the choice of whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy must at least acknowledge the moral gravity of the issue—as well as the deeply personal and emotional nature of that decision. So a basic respect for women in general and pregnant women (whatever the outcome) in particular would be a good start.

Abortion is ethically complex because pregnancy is ethically complex: one body inside another and utterly dependent; one mature and (otherwise) autonomous adult human being with a socially stable status, one developing human being whose status may change from one day to the next—from blastula to zygote to foetus to baby—or from one moment to the next—from wanted to unwanted, or vice-versa.

Immediately the reduction of complexity can be seen on both sides: pro-life attention to the baby, as if he or she is an astronaut in a space capsule instead of intimately involved in a particular woman’s body; pro-choice attention to “my body, myself”, ignoring the existence of another self, like and unlike, not-quite-identical.

At this point it has to be said that the “half my DNA” argument from the father, while factual, is overstated. Nature and nurture intertwine in gene expression so it’s very clear that the mother is not doing only half of the labour of pregnancy.

With all this in mind, the agency involved in abortion is similarly complex. Here are very different ethical categories:

  • I act, affecting my body
  • I act, affecting my body and another
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependent other
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependant other inside my body
  • I act to ask another to act…
  • I act to require another to act…
  • I act to coerce another to act…

This brings us to issues of rights and duties, and the ethical basis of both. “It’s gonna be my way cos I’m powerful enough to force you to comply” is not an ethical argument that commands widespread approval, yet both sides employ it and present it as such. “I know you don’t agree but if you’re a good person you’ll change your mind” is similarly manipulative and “this is too important for you to disagree with me” is also, at least, undemocratic.

I’m writing about abortion on Halloween because if the Freedom Movement is manipulated into in-fighting it will be over this issue. Just now, because we’re so powerless (no, Donald Trump is not and never was fighting for freedom and neither BTW is Vladimir Putin or Volodymyr Zelensky) this clear division isn’t being highlighted. When we, hopefully, start getting elected, will it be the hairline crack that the clever masons of the new world order chisel apart?

I suggest a pragmatic, principled truce. Call it the All Hallows Eve Agreement if you will:

  1. We respect each other’s right to disagree and to campaign to maintain or change the law.
  2. We acknowledge the coherence of our opponents’ stance on abortion with their view of pregnancy.
  3. We commit to work together to improve the socio-economic status of vulnerable women so that they may have better choices.
Crow standing on skull silhouetted by full moon in graveyard.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Halloween Background Poster Invite into the Public Domain.

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It’s a Fake

They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.

Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.

Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.

Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.

The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.

This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.

The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.

Cartoon graphic of two dark-haired men staring at an image of a pill bottle on a wall

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.

Ash Wednesday 2022

A university library is not one of the places I would associate with Ash Wednesday, but that’s where I am. I debated going to the “Vigil for Ukraine” down the road but I know me. At some point I might have found myself on my feet shouting WHEN’S THE VIGIL FOR YEMEN? Or the DRC. Or Canada, Australia and New Zealand for that matter. When’s the wake for all our school kids? For our elderly? For all those top sportsmen suddenly collapsing on the playing field?

I’m not going to comment on Ukraine other than to say:

  1. It’s been going on for 8 years. Do you really think the WEF-controlled media and Governments focussing on it right now is a coincidence?
  2. If you want a critical evaluation (including the above point) I recommend as your guide, because she says what she can evidence and distinguishes that clearly from what she can’t, Whitney Webb.

[Whitney & Ryan Cristián in discussion on this.]

Meanwhile this is the third year when my elderly mother hasn’t received the ashes and heard the words “dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Actually last year I did an impromptu ceremony for her myself, burning the Holy Week palms from last year. She bears it well. Unlike most of her contemporaries she doesn’t mask (unless manipulated into it) and isn’t vaccinated. It’s probably why, ages with the Queen, she’s still alive. That and her faith, her excellent nutrition and her positive outlook.

One of the reasons why I come to the university library is to read the student newspapers, to see what their concerns are. The issue in the plastic shelves is from September last year. Presumably “Cos of Covid” (CoC). What are their concerns?

  • Accommodation (or lack of, CoC)
  • Administrative chaos, CoC
  • Online exams, CoC
  • Sexual violence (cause: toxic masculinity)
  • Impact of Texas Heartbeat Law on “women, BIPOC and transgender people” (sic.)
  • Phobophobia (sic.)
  • Terrorism
  • Mental health (lots of new counsellors)
  • Student stereotypes (not true)
  • Self-care
  • Lookism
  • The Arts
  • Covid tests
  • Mars
  • Women’s sports (no mention of biological males in them)
  • Paralympics

[Heartbeat Law]

I have great affection for the students in general and my own in particular. Sheep without a shepherd, mostly, they are trying to find their way in a world mostly out to confuse them. Because the confused are easier to control. So many have been vaccinated with these uncontrolled substances, experimental drugs used on an unsuspecting population in callous privileging of profits over people. They regularly miss class due to adverse reactions. So far, no-one has died.

But others have died in my extended family. Of course this is put down to coincidence. To compare the mortality of the vaxxed and unvaxxed is to be a conspiracy theorist – but only if your conclusions are not those sanctioned by the State. Likewise all the “sudden death”, CoC, of course. What else could it be?

So this Ash Wednesday I sit alone in a university library, wishing I was in a world where I had a symbolic mark of death on my forehead – wishing I wasn’t surrounded by a heartbreaking number of young people naive enough to have allowed death to be injected into their arms.

Dust you are and to dust you shall return.

Black and white drawing of skull and crossbones

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Skull and Crossbones into the public domain.

Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart

What’s Wrong with the Resistance?

I’ve just left a chat group on Telegram because I couldn’t stand it any longer. Like many, I don’t have much free time — and an unrelenting flood of repetitious, unevidenced, incoherent and hysterical posts about “the Cabal” does nothing to inform and persuade people to resist the developing technocracy and everything to reassure them that its resisters are all crazy.

Left-leaning friends (current and former) may be relieved to hear this. Typically unable to distinguish between pointing out the historical roots of Big Pharma in poison gas manufacturers, such as I.G. Farben, and denial of the Shoah, they’re unable to reason clearly because they confuse categories.

For example: if I say it’s a Tuesday and the calendar says it’s a Tuesday and Adolf Hilter says it’s Dienstag, does that make me (or the calendar) a Nazi?

A real example: Alison McDowell, excellent on the links and repercussions of the 4th Industrial Revolution, blocked me on Twitter when I pointed out her (obvious) ignorance of the Catholic Church. Among other instances was her oohing and ahhhing over a post about “Masonic crosses” which even the original poster eventually conceded were simply a variety of crosses illustrated in a Masonic book. (Still not got it? The category “Masonic” applied to the book, it could not be assumed to apply to every illustration of traditional Christianity referenced in those pages. Especially as Masonry isn’t Christian.)

In fairness, Alison is quite candid about the fact that she couldn’t tell a Maltese Cross from The Maltese Falcon. She just didn’t like me pointing it out. I point things out. It’s why I lose friends. And save lives. Also, her Da Vinci Code style amateur exploits in the wonderland of Roman Catholicism (as I say, she’s amazing on Geo-Political Economics) are small potatoes compared to the Frito-Lay-factory-short-of-a-fish-supper crazy going on online right now about “the Cabal”.

Let me try to summarise (no, I haven’t read it up in depth and I don’t intend to):

The Cabal is a sinister leftist right wing communist elitist Black Jewish Catholic Alien reptilian, em, cabal, of gay trans paedophile vampire vegans funded, em, by themselves, who came from Outer Space to this Flat Earth and tried to convince us it was spherical by founding The Catholic Church and Black Judaism to really worship Satan, who is, em, them, by means of The Pyramids, The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Oh, and, y’know, religion, Netflix, NASA, and stuff. Antarctica is a Circular Ice Wall beyond which (it is known because no-one can get there) there is All Sorts of Alien Tech. Like they can blow this shit right up! They govern us by means of Mind Control and drink kids’ blood. The Moon Landings were faked cos there’s no Outer Space. We’re not gonna believe what those Aliens say!

Source? All over the Internet. Apparent source? Every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a 2-dimensional account with 15 identical followers that opened sometime in 2020/21. And all those influenced by them, including some vulnerable people with shaky mental health.

There are also celebrity influencers and though David Icke of course springs to mind, he appears to be speaking (of the struggle between the limbic and mammalian brains and the frontal cortex) metaphorically and may be simply a rather dramatic New Ager who believes in Universal Consciousness and Higher Things. He also, very clearly and very sanely, preaches specific resistance to the ongoing violations of human rights and civil liberties.

My concern is both with the ones who don’t (such as trust-the-plan Simon Parkes) and the ones who urge people to take part in illegal actions that are as unlikely to succeed as they are likely to alienate the general public.

Because it is no secret (they state it openly) that intelligence services are targeting resistance groups in person and online. What better way to derail the train bound for freedom than to send its drivers conflicting signals, place as many obstacles on the track as possible and, easiest of all, convince the passengers not to get onboard but to stay, patiently, listening for further announcements in the waiting room…in the deferential and ever-deferred hope of a celebrity saviour.

If religious education were actually taught in schools and church history in universities (based on historical fact rather than endless emoting and opining over present-day imaginary identities) then more people might know that the blood-drinking hypothesis was a 1st C. Roman imperial slur against the newly-formed Christian community and one that was diverted from their spiritual descendants to be used against Jews in most centuries since, including this one.

I do not deny the depravity of some human beings but the lesson of the Holocaust is not that Germans are especially sadistic but that good people can be gradually coerced into evil fairly easily, until it becomes banal.

That’s what we need to resist. Anti-Semitism, recklessness, agents provocateurs, clashes of celebrity egos, ignorance and stupidity will only get in the way of the diffusion of sane, sympathetic, balanced and well-researched investigations such as that of Cory Morningstar on The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (Cory doesn’t deny the ecological problems of the planet but simply shows how big businesses is exploiting them, and young activists, in order to open new markets.) Or basically anything written by the amazing, and always responsible independent journalist Whitney Webb. (Whitney is always careful to state exactly what she can evidence and her analysis of political blackmail and international information technology is based on painstaking research.)

For resistance to be effective, the messages broadcast need to be sane, focussed and supportive of human rights and civil liberties. That means the administrator “owners” of groups and channels need to reduce repetition, weed out the crazies and ban prejudice. Otherwise all they will do is encourage either inaction or unsympathetic and possibly life-threatening confrontation with the authorities and the general public. What we need to be doing is appealing to hearts and minds. Warmly and wisely.

Thanks to Circe Denyer for releasing her image Halloween Whispering Clowns into the Public Domain.

5 Ways to Disagree

This is a more structured version of my podcast of the same title which reflects on how we can discuss and even argue with people who hold opinions opposed to ours, irrespective of logic or empirical evidence, and so passionately, that we may be justified in calling them beliefs – and they may be justified in doing the same.

Although many of us moderns (especially White, slick urbanites) like to think of ourselves as all about science and having nothing to do with belief, there are some convictions on issues which are clearly not evidence-based and about which we are immune to rational persuasion.

Rather than identifying particular positions as irrational, I prefer to present examples of opposing beliefs, and some middle ground, without (too much) judgement. After doing so, I suggest 5 ways we can dialogue with each other, even when we disagree. The table below is not a nuanced account of any of these positions but serves to show their conflict. The middle position is not necessarily the one I consider most rational in all cases.

Issue/ Belief  Established Middle ground Dissenting
Abortion Amoral medical procedure, sometimes necessary/ human right. Cornerstone of female autonomy & modern feminism. Unborn baby is basically a bloodclot. Tragic conflict of rights in a misogynist society which still does not support female socio-economic autonomy, pregnancy, childbirth or childcare. Lucrative immoral practice of eugenics, often racist, sexist & ableist, by selfish women, authoritarian governments & doctors breaking Hippocratic Oath. Zygote is basically a baby.
AIDS HIV is the necessary & sufficient cause of AIDS (Gallo)  HIV is co-factor of AIDS but good nutrition/ clean water will flush it out (Montagnier) HIV is at least a co-factor of AIDS, oxidation may be another, but epidemiological data is so flawed & positions over e.g. poppers (alkyl nitrate) & Kaposi’s Sarcoma so entrenched, it is difficult to say anything for certain. HIV is a harmless passenger virus unconnected to AIDS – an  incoherent set of diseases caused by malnutrition & drugs including HIV meds (Duesberg)

HIV has never been proved to exist

(Perth Group)

Animal Farming Natural: humans are omnivores and animals hunt eat other for food. Factory farming & fishing bycatch/ plastic pollution unnecessary is cruel but animal welfare can be improved by a return to traditional farming/ fishing. Immoral. We are not just wild animals and traditional ecological communities of hunters & fishers do not subject animals to a (short) lifetime of cruelty.
Black Lives Matter Black people are causing racist division in our now totally equal societies. The cause of BLM is good but it is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.* It’s the 21st C. and Black people are still not safe anywhere. Defund the police!
Environment There is no environmental problem. Big business as usual! There may or may not be a relationship between emissions and global warming but plastic & air pollution is real. The Green movement is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.* The Earth is in crisis and only an immediate halt to CO2 & other toxic emissions will save humanity.  
5G/ Cashless Economy/ Cryptocurrency/ Blockchain 5G is useful, empowering, safe & efficient. It’s unconnected to the others which are just a more efficient & sanitory method of finance. We should be cautious about possible harm from any new technology, especially one using microwaves. The industry promoting it is unlikely to be impartial. The others are useful but problematic in terms of money laundering/ the Dark Web. All this is part of *The Great Reset: unelected oligarchic global governance based on citizen surveillance using biodata.
Transgender Human right if born in the wrong body. Access all areas! Confusing conflation of transsexual and transvestite people who have very different rights and present very different dangers to women and children. Attack on female safe space and sovereignty. Unnatural & especially harmful to kids who end up irreversibly mutilated, scarred & sterile for life & unable to enjoy sex.
Vaccines Totally safe. Good in general but their proliferation is worrying as is lack of legal accountability for past & future harms by pharmaceutical industry. Totally unsafe. Cause of autism etc.
Viruses: Covid-19/ H1N1 (Swine Flu) Real threat to life. Masks, social distancing, citizen surveillance, vaccines are our only hope against certain destruction of the human race. Bad (incommensurable) data; bad (incoherent) results. Censorship of dissenting experts not helping understanding of threat & solution. Scam/ social engineering with real or fake virus. Key part of another agenda operating since the 9/11 scam.*

Some of these issues line up with bipartisan politics – especially in the USA – and so some have described this as conflict of cultures. If we accept ideologies as similar to cultures, then one solution to continual argument is an approach similar to multiculturalism – which is a social strategy that has never been tried seriously in the UK (despite the political rhetoric) because, throughout our history, no culture apart from the dominant one has ever felt sufficiently safe.

In the USA it has never been tried at all, as the famous ‘Melting Pot’ is the antithesis of cultural respect. Expression of non-dominant cultural identity in the USA is only tolerated if it is folksy, touristy, commercially packaged, relegated to the past or heavily-constrained and bounded communities. When accessible, urban, vociferous and resistant to assimilation, it is severely repressed.

However convivencia was a key virtue of much of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) during the years when Christians and Jews lived securely under Muslim rule. Out of their dialogue came many literary, philosophical and scientific riches.

So what are my thoughts on a more convivial way of engaging with people of different persuasions? I suggest 5 ways to disagree:

  • Acknowledge the benevolence of people on the other side – they may truly believe what they do in good faith, with the information, cultural identity, emotional investment and relationships they have at this time.
  • Find shared values & goals: e.g. Pro-Life & Pro-Choice women can at least agree on supporting women who want to give birth and face social & economic obstacles, without giving up their opposition over the morality & legality of abortion.
  • Agree on a basis of evidence. This may be a legal or religious text that one or both parties holds as authoritative, a set of scientific studies, a certain database, etc.
  • Explore coherence – using logic, the value system each claims to uphold, and perhaps one of the above, this step may serve to demolish an opponent’s argument but may also enable it to be expressed more intelligibly, enabling better mutual understanding.
  • Agree to disagree. If you agree on nothing else, at least acknowledge the legal right to freedom of expression/ freedom of speech and resist attempts by others to censor this fundamental value of democracy.

argument-silhouette
Silhouette of older White man & younger Black man arguing

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Argument Silhouette into the public domain.

 

Bodies

Living both north and south of the Tropic of Capricorn in Brazil, I had to get used to walking slowly and smoothly­ – otherwise I’d arrive sticky with sweat (and Brazilians are extremely fastidious about hygiene). In my native Scotland, we walk at a brisk, jerky, pace because speed and friction keep us warm north of the latitude of Moscow. In the days before mobile phones, when I still had my Brazilian tan, I sat for an hour outside Holborn Tube Station waiting for a friend and watching the citizens of London walk by. Generally, the White people scurried along, head-first, frowning, shoulders tense, neck at 45o; mostly, the Black people had shoulders back and walked with head high, evenly and upright. Of course there were exceptions.

Taking an African dance class in California (I’m White and, yes, I was hopeless) I observed a White American classmate with a very Irish name skip across the floor and asked her when she’d learned Irish dancing, because I recognised the movement. She said “what is that?” and told me her family had emigrated from Ireland centuries ago. I replied, “your legs remember”.

Muscle memory’ was a hot topic in those days and it was something we were well aware of in our massage class, led by our gentle, feminine New-Agey teacher – she’d burp as she worked, feeling it released the blocked somatic energy she was picking up – who summed up her philosophy: “when you bring peace to the body, you bring peace to the world”.

Although I try to do that, nowadays, I’m sorry to say, I tend to poke my neck out and scurry with the rest of my peely-wally compatriots but occasionally I am reminded (by all our stooped White elderly folk) to straighten my spine. And, when it’s hot, I still drag the back of my flip-flops along, like a good Brazilian, rather than snap them to my heels.

What’s the point? Today for Catholics is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, and bodies are on all our minds right now. The Italian cultural theorist and moral philosopher Giorgio Agamben critiques the church for failing in a duty which was recognised as paramount even by the Ancient Greeks:

“The first point, perhaps the most serious, concerns the bodies of dead persons. How could we have accepted, solely in the name of a risk that it was not possible to specify, that persons who are dear to us and human beings in general should not only die alone, but — something that had never happened before in history, from Antigone to today — that their cadavers should be burned without a funeral?”

As the main carer for two family members, one human, one canine, and as a vegan, I am well aware of the importance of bodies, especially right now. She can get cramped from sitting too long, her accustomed exercise, a short bus trip to the local town for mass and a potter round cafes and charity shops, greeting friends, curtailed by the powers-that-be. He’s probably getting more walks than ever but other animals are not so fortunate. All across the United States, pigs are being herded into gas chambers to cut their sad lives even shorter.

Unlike many new converts to animal liberation, I don’t watch footage of cruelty to animals. I know about our inhumanity. Instead I share the work of animal sanctuaries – and I invite you to do the same.

When I read that the bodies of our elderly, frightened and sometimes starving to death, were being discovered, alone and decomposing, in homes in London, I felt we had reached an end point in utter selfishness in metropolitan society.

Agamben, rightly, criticises the church for embracing the Covid Cult rather than the sick:

“The Church above all, which, in making itself the handmaid of science, which has now become the true religion of our time, has radically repudiated its most essential principles. The Church, under a Pope who calls himself Francis, has forgotten that Francis embraced lepers. It has forgotten that one of the works of mercy is that of visiting the sick. It has forgotten that the martyrs teach that we must be prepared to sacrifice our life rather than our faith and that renouncing our neighbour means renouncing faith.” (ibid)

Pope Francis, in his defence, has a long history of embracing those whom society repudiates as repugnant. As well as his ad hoc embraces, his annual washing of the feet of prisoners and the poor was only seized upon by the press when he became pope but for him it is nothing new – and he has publically urged respect and compassion for people caught up in prostitution. Nevertheless, I fear that the Vatican may have been overly conscious of its geographical position in the heart of Italy, so hysterically caught up in the Covid Cult and so tragically beginning to become aware that so many of its elderly were simply killed by well-meaning medics in a lethal combination of multimorbidity and iatrogenesis.

Women who advocate for reproductive justice (which should be against forced abortion and sterilisation; against state, social or economic pressure on pregnant women not to give birth; against pathologising natural somatic processes; against pro-birthers who do not support single mothers; and against any discrimination based on sex, race or ability) use the slogan OUR BODIES OUR SELVES! (Naomi Wolf, bravely, nuances the argument with a reflection on Our Bodies Our Souls.)

For human beings of any unselfish faith or philosophy, our bodies are not just commodities at the disposal of the state or the corporate forces of the market.

As we wake up from this global hypnosis, and open our eyes to the long-held plans of the biotech industrial complex, let’s remember that.

faceless-mannequins
Unclothed grey sleek faceless mannequins in a shop window

Thanks to Peter Griffin for releasing his image Faceless Mannequins into the Public Domain.

 

Easter Sunday: Exaltation and Depression

yellow-candle
Tall yellow candle burning alone in the darkness

Early on Easter Sunday, the Exsultet (sung by the lovely voice of Rev. Oliver Brewer-Lennon) filled our house as I made porridge for my mum and placed daffodils, cards and Easter eggs on the breakfast table. The recording is so clear; the acoustics are very good in the Episcopal Cathedral of St Mary in Glasgow, where the Vice-Provost was singing.

In the fourth verse, which normally calls for a response from the congregation, there is an audible catch in his voice, at the word “friends”:

“My dearest friends, standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.”

His friends weren’t there. No-one was there. The cathedral, hugely popular with high church liberals and normally crowded at Easter, was empty.

This chiaroscuro of joy and sadness echoed throughout the day, as friends and family phoned and texted to wish us Happy Easter – and we heard “police are everywhere” from all over the UK; as I walked Ben my dog and greeted other happy dog walkers – and returned through our silent neighbourhood; as we discovered that, yes, the simnal cake has risen! And sent some up the road to family – simultaneously breaking the news of the shattered iPad which had been their gift, later discovering one of them sustained a painful but not life-threatening injury.

Easter Cake

Police were out to stop people congregating. On Easter Sunday. Twitter (which I’d been off since St Valentine’s Day, when I sowed pollinator-friendly flowers) is full of complaints about officers breaching the 2 metre/ 6 foot prescribed personal space for non-cohabitants in order to harass or arrest those either breaching it – or just sitting peacefully alone on a park bench or in their front garden.

Pollinator seedlings growing
Pollinator-friendly flowers on Easter Monday

I don’t blame the police and, despite what I have written here about hospitals as the riskiest places on Earth at the moment, I don’t blame anyone who works in them. People tend to do what they’re told. I’m writing a book with the working title, Dread and Viruses: the Individual, the State and the Common Cold, contextualising this madness with a select history of ideas on political philosophy, and my first stop is Plato’s Republic. The watchdogs of the state follow orders from the Rulers and even skilled Workers are under their jurisdiction. It’s an open secret that profiteering businessmen and career bureaucrats rather than dedicated scientists are now in charge of biomedical research, publication and development – a previous book reveals how this affects science) – and how it is their guidelines that are followed. Not those based on the scientific cycle of hypothesis improved by re-focussed empirical research – or on common sense.

Despite the light and joy of Easter, there are many for whom yesterday was an occasion of profound sadness, all the harder to bear in the obscurity of solitude. Trusting citizens delivering up their loved ones to ambulances, never to see them again. Sons and daughters getting a cold response from nursing homes, where they fear their elderly relatives may be abandoned – shut up in their rooms by fearful staff.

The Exsultet is sung at the Easter Vigil, and the Gospel reading which follows contains the first words of the angel to the women witnessing the stone rolling away from the empty tomb:

“There is no need for you to be afraid.” (Matt. 28:5)

The penultimate verse of this song of joy express confident hope:

“Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honour of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!”

While I do not counsel breaching social distancing (as that would only increase the general paranoia) I do reiterate that a good theory must fit the facts – and not simply describe those that don’t as “puzzling” (still) – and if it doesn’t, then it should be replaced.

The message of Easter (even for non-believers) is that, out of an utter disaster, lessons may be learned and meaning may arise – and those most affected may find some comfort in solidarity.

If we are to allow that process to happen, we must be prepared to lose face, to make a volte-face, to turn, to convert our commitment away from profit and towards people – and in that metanoia, to turn out right.

In the midst of solitary fear and scientific obscurity, we need enlightenment. Even now, all over the world, clear-thinking people are conducting citizen research: reaching out, joining the dots and questioning the irrational official version of events.

Hope, evergreen, arises.

Raised bed on Easter Monday
Raised bed on Easter Monday with chives, seedlings of Brussels & cabbage, and potatoes planted

Thanks to Maliz Ong for releasing her photo “Yellow Candle” into the Public Domain. Other photos © Alan McManus

 

 

 

Baking a Cake on Maundy Thursday

Unconvinced as I am about the present paranoia, as a social fact it has to be taken seriously. So my mother, obediently, has been staying in and I venture out only as recommended. I mostly work from home and my mother is of the generation who are able to find joy in small things and contentment in the everyday. Holy Week and Easter, under the present circumstances, is challenging for many Christians but on Palm Sunday, when I suggested we made DIY paper palm crosses, Mum was game.

Today most Western Christians celebrate Maundy Thursday (for Orthodox Christians not in communion with Rome, it’s next week). The feast commemorates the Last Supper and the horrific events which followed that night (I’ve detailed these in that previous post). Older Catholics tend to call it “The Washing of the Feet”, as that ritual act of humility is a high point of the celebration.

That’s out this year, clearly, but I’m conscious of all the carers, mostly women, paid and unpaid, who do just that, day in, day out. Maybe we can’t wash their feet for them but we could probably help them get their feet up once in a while if we pulled our weight more, fellow men!

Mum isn’t one for just sitting about so when I suggested we make an Easter cake today she got her apron on immediately. (Okay that’s a lie. First she suggested a Simnel cake, which is traditional in her native England at Easter, then we looked up Practical Cookery for All to get the ingredients, then I veganised it and went for spelt not wheat flour, then I got on my bike and stood outside Sainsbury’s for 30 minutes, two meters away from my fellow shoppers, after inadvertently jumping the queue, twice, then I saw they had no spelt so grabbed buckwheat, then I pedalled back, then Mum put her apron on and lined the cake tin with foil and we were all set. Then the phone rang.)

weighed ingredients
Cake ingredients separated and weighed

By the time the cheery neighbour had got off the phone, I had the fruit washed and everything out for weighing. P. C. for A. was first published (probably) in 1948 by Odhams  (Long Acre, London) and, by golly, Blanche Anding (Diplômée Cordon-Bleu, Paris) and co. stood absolutely no nonsense! Here’s a gem on p.580 under Hints for the Hostess:

“If work is not methodically arranged, energy is wasted; fatigue and worry supervene, and the pleasure of entertaining quickly disappears, to be replaced by an atmosphere of strain.”

I love this lady!

If you want this specific recipe it’s on p.452, after Shrewsbury cakes (I wouldn’t dare plagiarise Blanche) but you can always find one online. Mum started creaming the vegan margarine and brown sugar (we used about ¼ of what Blanche recommended of that) while I prepared the almond icing. Now I’ll tell you this for free, when Blanche (on p.464) says “dredge a board with icing sugar”, don’t argue!

I argued – and had to scrape my first attempt at a lovely kneaded circle off and start again. Almond icing is sticky! I used juice from half a lime not a lemon cos it’s all I had and I’d got mixed up in the shop (with all the social dancing about each other) and bought almond not vanilla essence. “Bung it in”, said Mum. So I did. And the ground almonds.

The veganised eggs. A blend (literally) of two small bananas and aquafaba. No, don’t make that face, it’s not that posh really. I mean, who doesn’t buy beans? It just means that instead of chucking the juice down the sink you can use it. Cos it has similar properties to eggs. Don’t ask me what. I never taught Home Ec. Officially.

Anyway, I decided that was roughly the equivalent of 4-6 eggs “fresh or reconstituted”, as Blanche says. Vintage! Imagine those days, eh? Rationing, empty supermarket shelves, queuing outside for ages and not coming out with what you went in for. Wonder what that was like.

Pressing on. I cheated and whisked the cake mixture before the flour went in. I then, cleverly  – instead of sorting out the almond icing properly – took the sieve out of the oven where I’d cleverly placed it for a minute or two to get bone dry. And burnt my fingers. Not so clever. I plunged them into a pint glass of water and Mum sieved in the flour, baking powder (we used ½ cream of tartar, ½ bicarb) and salt. While I interfered. There was almost a mutiny at this stage. But then she bunged in the currants, sultanas and mixed peel. We left out the mixed spice (cos she hates it) and angelica (cos I forgot to buy it) but I did remember to add the glacé cherries before the last stir.

Half went in the tin, the round of almond icing (I really dredged the board this time) on top then the other half and in it went, after converting from Fahrenheit, for three hours. Actually two hours fifty minutes. Cos someone turned the cooker off with the microwave. Oops! There were words at that stage.

We tuned into Maundy Thursday mass from the local Carmelite convent. Simplicity. It’s not a show, it’s a service. And they know all about staying in one place because they take the Vow of Stability. So there’s no hysteria there. We had our supper during the service. This wasn’t planned but – how liturgical!

The cake came out the oven at the end of the Hour’s Watch (this commemorates the disciples falling asleep while Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane). It looked alright. I’m not known for my cakes but Mum has years of experience. I added the top ring of icing and popped it back for 15 minutes. And then, gingerly, pulled it out of the tin with the foil. It seemed to have risen.

Let’s see on Sunday!

cooked cake on rack
Risen?

Photos (c) Alan McManus

 

DIY Palm Sunday

Easter Sunday, and thereabouts, is likely to be DIY this year – for many Western Christians (12th April) and Eastern Orthodox (19th April) alike. Thanks to the ingenuity of many people, paid and unpaid, there are a wide variety of online options to tune into the services comprising both Palm Sunday and the Tridium (the liturgical period of time from the commemoration of the Last Supper and Agony in the Garden, terminated by the Arrest of Jesus of Nazareth on Maundy Thursday; his Imprisonment, Trial, Torture, brutal Execution and Burial on Good Friday; and the experience of the Empty Tomb on Easter Morning, the Appearances to his Followers and subsequent Proclamation of his Resurrection.

The four canonical Gospels do not exactly coincide over the sequence and nature of these events, and there are many other subplots in the story, such as the Betrayal by Simon as well as those which have assumed a story of their own, such as the Veil of Veronica and, most famously, the Holy Grail. Mention of the latter is likely to produce hilarity in fans of Monty Python, as is mention of any of these events. However, especially for the older generation of Christians (with the sects who do not mark ‘times and seasons’ excepted) this week is very important indeed.

Whatever our views about the global shutdown (mine are here) anything that can keep up the spirits of our older relatives and friends, and help them find meaning in their even-more restricted life, is to be encouraged. So let’s talk about DIY celebrations at home. Starting with Palm Sunday, 5th or 12th April.

In the Beginning was the Word, so I’ll start with the texts. For Roman Catholics, we’re in Liturgical Year A this year (until Advent, the period before Christmas) so as these I know for certain, these are the ones I’ll give:

Matthew 21:1-11. The Entry into Jerusalem. Jesus rides humbly into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people shout with joy and strew palms in his path in welcome.

The traditional celebration includes waving palms which are usually handed out at church. In posh churches, already made into wee crosses. In cheap and cheerful churches, like the ones I grew up attending, we made our own. If you still have palms hanging about from last year (Catholics at least don’t tend to bin them till they fall apart so look at the back of shelves and drawers) wave them while you’re watching a procession online – or do your own procession about the living-room or garden and wave them then.

Then, if you need or want to, you can make them into crosses (kids usually do this during the sermon). Palms are about a fingerswidth wide and if you get a hold of one, make sure it isn’t several (slide your fingernail, carefully, along the side to separate them) and when you’re sure you’ve only got one, go ahead.

If you don’t have a palm or another length of some similar (non-toxic) plant, you can use a sheet of paper. I’m using a sheet of A4 paper (the size of those big refill writing pads) so if your size is smaller, watch the width of the smaller sections so they’re about a thumbnail to start – the width halves as you fold.

Here’s how to make a wee Palm Sunday cross (in 25 easy-peasy steps). First, some pictures so you can see how simple it is:

  1. Fold the A4 sheet in half, lengthwise (longways), so you have 2 long narrow rectangles.
  2. Fold it again, without opening it up. Now you have 4 long even narrower rectangles.
  3. Fold it again, without opening it up. Now you have 8 long, even more narrower rectangles!
  4. Push your fingernail, flat, along all the edges, to get them to lie flat.
  5. Now open it all up. You have made 7 foldlines. Number them 1-7 in your head.
  6. If you have scissors, cut along every second of the 7 foldlines you’ve made (so that’s only 2, 4 and 6).
  7. If you don’t have scissors, or you prefer and are careful, place a fingernail at the top of one side of the central foldline and pull very gently but firmly on the other side until the paper splits in two – then do that for all the central foldlines as you divide the A4 paper into narrower sections.
  8. Now you should have 4 narrow strips, each divided by a foldline.
  9. Take one and, keeping it folded, push your fingernail along it again.
  10. Now, still folded, fold it in half but crosswise (transverse) so it’s now half the length it was.
  11. Open it up again.
  12. Fold the bottom edge to the middle fold you’ve just made. (In the picture, I’m working with the one with holes in.)
  13. Open it up again.
  14. Fold the bottom edge to the lower fold you’ve just made.
  15. Open it up again.
  16. Now fold it lengthwise, again. (See picture.) Now you have a very skinny but strong rectangle, with a middle and a lower fold. This is called the paper palm. Make sure the side with the lengthwise fold is on the right and the open side is on the left.
  17. Now, still folded lengthwise into the skinny rectangle, fold the lower fold to the middle fold.
  18. You’ve just made the important fold! So it’s important that you don’t open it up again.
  19. Now the important fold is at the top and what was the middle fold is now lying over what was the lower fold – this is now called the cross fold.
  20. Hold the cross fold firmly together and turn the lower half (cos it is actually half) of the paper palm to the right with a 45 degree angle (so what was the left edge is now running along the cross fold). This is now called the right arm.
  21. Fold the end of the right arm back to the centre of the upright arm.
  22. Still folded, do that again. (I got that wrong before, the proportions should be okay now)
  23. Open that fold up and use it so that the left arm is now twice as long as the right arm.
  24. Reverse the fold in the middle of the left arm and just tuck it in so that the arms are now the same length. You now have a perfectly respectable paper palm cross to wave (especially if you hold it in the middle).
  25. If you want it stronger, there are various options:

  • Staple it.
  • Sellotape it
  • Use an elastic band – or two to make a Celtic cross
  • Use that wee wiry thing off the bread.

(speaking of which, you now deserve a hot cross bun!)

Watch this space for more DIY Easter!

crosses

Photos © Alan McManus