Heroes of our age – Martin Luther King – We’re all equal; all one species.

Heroes of our age – Martin Luther King – We’re all equal; all one species.

As short a time ago as the 1960s segregation held sway in the United States. Whites were considered superior and supremacist groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, were widely supported. They might have been forced to do away with slavery through losing the Civil War but the notion still prevailed – They viewed the Black Race as inferior and were determined to keep them down. The idea of equality was repugnant. It is a Racist ideology that persists to this day and results in the situations that are occurring in US cities where black lives are considered cheap and blacks are being shot by police.

We’ve still got a way to go.

In the 1960s segregation was apartheid. Blacks had different buses, water taps, cinemas, music, housing and even concerts were segregated. To be black was to be second class. They were actively prevented from voting.

Martin Luther King was a Baptist Minister and Humanitarian. Born in 1929 he lead the Civil Rights Movement (SCLC) and fought for equal rights and the vote. He fought for desegregation – the rights for schools, jobs, transport and utilities to be shared by all. He inspired mass protest and based his tactics on those of Mahatma Ghandi.

There were sit-ins, marches, bus boycotts and protest. Protestors were beaten up, murdered, harassed, threatened, abused and arrested. They remained non-violent and defiant.

In 1963 Martin Luther King called for a march on Washington. A million white and black people, side by side, marched on the Capital and were roused by the incredible oratory of Martin’s as he delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

He was an incredibly brave man. The FBI and CIA did their best to discredit him. He received death threats. On the march between Selma and Montgomery in 1964 he was expecting a bullet with every step. He marched regardless.

He was condemned by black radicals such as Malcolm X of ‘The Nation of Islam’ and members of the Black Panthers for being non-violent. They believed the only way to get equality was to fight for it and demand it. They were wrong.

Martin Luther King diversified his protest to fight for an end to poverty and to oppose the Vietnam War. He saw it all part of the same struggle.

In 1968 he was assassinated. A cowardly sniper shot him on his balcony at the motel he was staying in in Memphis.

I visited that balcony, stood on that spot and was grateful that we had people as brave, fearless, intelligent and outspoken. Without such people we would be oppressed and still in the Dark Ages. They gave us light and hope for a world of real equality.

Where are our leaders now?

Richie Havens – The Klan – lyrics about the terrorism of the Klu Klux Klan.

Richie Havens – The Klan – lyrics about the terrorism of the Klu Klux Klan.

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In this day and age it is easy to think of terrorism as something perpetrated by religious fanatics, brainwashed and packed off with their bombs to blow up innocent people in trains, planes, mosques and buses. That is not always the case.

The Ku Klux Klan were a terrorist organisation with the sole intent of maintaining White Supremacy by instigating terror in the Southern Black population.

They used hoods, burning crosses, pseudo-Christian rhetoric and gibberish and weren’t above threats, beatings, shootings, arson and lynching to make a point. They ruled through terror.

It took a brave man to stand up to the Klan. Their reach was long, forgiveness none and retribution vicious.

Where evil lives it is up to all good people to stand up and oppose it!

The Klan

The countryside was cold and still
There were three crosses upon the hill
Each one wore a burning hood
To hide its rotten heart of wood

And I cried
Father I hear the iron sound
Hoofbeats on the frozen ground

Down from the hills the riders came
Lord, it was a crying shame
To see the blood upon their whips
And hear the snarling of their lips

And I cried
Mother I feel a stabbing pain
Blood flows down like a summer rain

Each one wore a mask of white
To hide his cruel face from sight
and each one sucked a hungery breath
Out of the empty lungs of death

And I cried
Sister raise my bloody head
It’s so lonesome to be dead

He who rides with the Klan
He is a devil and not a man
For underneath that white disguise
I have looked into his eyes

Brother, stand with me
it’s not easy to be free

Muhammed Ali

Fare thee well Muhammed Ali!!

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As a child I watched Cassius Clay boxing on TV and I was inspired by his audacity, by the way he boxed, his genius and also by the brilliance of his words. He worked the cameras and the audience. He worked his opponents and he was the greatest boxer in the history of the world. His lightness of foot, heaviness of punch, speed and deftness thrilled.

He changed his name to Muhammed Ali because he claimed that Cassius Clay was his slave name and he was no slave.

He refused to fight in Vietnam because he had no argument with the Vietnamese people, had a moral obligation not to kill, and thought that the war was racist; that it was disproportionately sending poor blacks and not rich whites. They stripped him of his championship and locked him up. They prevented him from fighting.

The establishment did not like him becoming a Muslim. They did not like him speaking out against the civil rights violations, or the fighting of an unjust war. They tried everything to shut him up.

But Muhammed refused to shut up. He championed civil rights issues and stood up for his principles.

I salute all that he stood for. He was a great man, not so much because of his genius in the ring, but because of his principles and actions outside it.

He said he wanted to leave this world having done more good than harm. I think he achieved that.

He’s a role model for me!!

Goodbye Muhammed Ali!!

Poetry – A HOLOCAUST – a poem about mass destruction.

Poetry – A HOLOCAUST – a poem about mass destruction.

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When I painted this piece back in 1974 I called it nuclear warhead.

I wanted to have an evil face peering out of a nuclear explosion. The lips kiss the ground. The seething, billowing clouds of the nuclear inferno form the sulci and gyri of the cerebrum. The eyes peer out from flame. Behind it are the lights of a city.

A Holocaust

 

I wrote this after reading a poem that talked of Holocaust. I am sorry I cannot track it down and so cannot tell you the poet’s name. He was castigated for applying the term holocaust to things such as poverty. He was told it was disrespectful.

I do not agree.

The holocaust perpetrated by the fascists in Germany against the Jews, Gypsies, Trade Unionists, Communists and others was a horrendous crime of unimaginable cruelty and scale. Yet it is one of many such crimes. They occur with monotonous regularity. Cruelty and barbarity has been an ingredient of human nature throughout time.

We run the world to create inequality from which millions die. Poverty is as much a holocaust as the Nazis orchestrated. It is there by design.

Genocides are not always concentrated in one vicinity.

ISIS is demonstrating the barbarity of humanity as they think up the most sadistic methods of killing people.

The terrorist bombers loading shrapnel and nails into their bombs must imagine the flesh and organs being ripped. The thought of these horrific injuries probably causes them satisfaction.

But for me the greatest crime of all is not that inflicted by people on other people; it is the mindless destruction of nature, the slaughter of our wild-life, the cruelty inflicted on animals.

As the relentless intrusion into habitat, the poaching, hunting and building, the deliberate inflicting of pain, continues on a daily basis; each and every day is a holocaust for nature.

 

A Holocaust

 

A holocaust

Six million burnt.

A holocaust

Pol Pot and Uganda.

A holocaust

Rwanda and Sarijevo.

 

Genocide on scales unimaginable.

Repeated with regularity.

Out of the psyche

Of humanity.

 

A holocaust. A holocaust. A holocaust.

 

Nagasaki.

Hiroshima.

 

Dachau.

Auschwitz.

 

A holocaust. A holocaust. A holocaust.

 

Every decade

Another atrocity

Is designed.

 

Yet

A holocaust

For nature

Every single day.

 

A holocaust. A holocaust. A holocaust.

 

Opher 9.5.2016

The Enlightenment – An overview

The Enlightenment – An overview

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The Enlightenment came about in the 18th century and freed Western civilisation from the stranglehold of religious fundamentalism. It enabled all the progress we now take for granted.

Prior to this time there was a type of extreme fundamentalism that was akin to ISIS. It was illegal to oppose Christian religious belief. Europe was a theocracy. The word of god was the only rule. Heretics, or those the Church/establishment deemed to be heretic could be tortured to death to save their souls. All methods of torture were devised and deployed including the most barbaric that can be imagined.

To even publish the Bible in English was an offence punishable by death. The Church wanted the power and that resided with the clergy. It was not right for ordinary people to have access to the teachings; they could misinterpret the meaning.

It was a regular event to have blasphemers, witches and heretics publicly burnt to death. Science and rationalism were not permitted.

What is obvious is that all this was much more to do with power than religion.

In the 1620s there was a scientific revolution which brought about a wave of rationalism and doubt. The theological certainties of flat earth, earth at the centre of creation and even man in god’s image were brought into question.

In the 18th Century philosophers such as Kant developed the philosophy of rationalism. This grew among the intellectual classes and led to a movement to create a society based on reason. This led to the separation of religion from politics and the formation of a secular culture.

Secular politics was based on tolerance and reason.

The philosopher Locke the radical idea that government should be through the consent of the people and not the imposition of religious dogma.

This led to a flourishing of the Arts and Science which created the greatest impetus of social development in the history of the world. The West flourished.

The enlightenment led to the ethos of the French Revolution – Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.

It separated the state from religion.

It led to the American revolution and the enshrined doctrine of freedom, religious freedom and individuality.

It has enabled the West to create democracy, pluralism, tolerance, freedom, science, liberalisation, the arts and a diverse and vital culture.

If we had not had an enlightenment and reformation we would still be in medieval costume burning Catholics, Muslims and anyone who was different in our public squares.

Long Live the Enlightenment! Something worth fighting for!

Brexit – Johnson’s Plan to Reduce Worker Rights.

We can only surmise (from the deliberate dropping of the clauses on maintaining workers’ right from the Brexit bill) Johnson is looking to bring worker’s rights in line with much lower USA standards rather than attempt to elevate them to those enjoyed in Scandinavia.

Here is a couple of examples:

Statutory Holiday Rights:

In the UK                   In the USA                      In Sweden

20 days                    10 days                           25 days

 

Maternity/Paternity Rights:

In the UK                In the USA                       In Sweden

Males 

10 days                     60 days                       Share 480 days

Full pay                    Unpaid                          80% pay

Females

130                         60 days                         Share 480 days

Full pay                   Unpaid                           80% pay

This leaves one with a number of questions.

Why are American workers’ conditions so incredibly poor? Is it due to lack of unionisation? Is it due to gross inequality? Why is the richest nation on earth so miserly with its workers?

How can Scandinavia afford to be so generous to its workers?

Why is Johnson so keen to undermine our workers’ rights instead of building on them to get them to Scandinavian levels? Could it be that he is in favour of increasing profits by exploiting workers? Surely not?

But then that is what the Tories consistently do, isn’t it? They put profit for the wealthy above people, don’t they?

At this time, with automation and AI, do we really need to be working so long and hard?

It really is a race to the bottom isn’t it?

Poetry – A history of struggle – a poem about inequality.

Poetry – A history of struggle – a poem about inequality.

Stanzas and Stances cover

A History of Struggle

Within Britain we have achieved a level of social justice. Nobody should starve or go without a roof over their heads, though I’m sure some still do. There is a minimum wage and health and safety to ensure reasonable working conditions. We have education and health care. Even the poorest enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

But I cannot help thinking that we only get the minimum that the establishment think they can get away with. The fat cats at the top scoop off the profits in inordinate amounts.

If we look globally we see an even greater inequality. While the corporations run things for their own ends, to maximize their profits, billions are on the starvation level and the natural world is blitzed.

It is only ever through social struggle, paid for with blood, that we have ever wrested power, better conditions or better pay from the wealthy.

I do not believe the establishment cares a jot. They have no compassion. They will screw you if they can.

 

A History of Struggle

There is a history of struggle

Disguised

By a thin veneer

Of adequacy

That controls everyone

In a web of narrow

Expectation.

 

There’s a small trough of cream

And an endless desert

Of excrement.

As the few wet whiskers drip

While billions of parched throats

Croak

In futile hope.

 

Opher 30.10.2015

Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s

Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.

 

Back in the early 1960s the Civil Rights Movement was picking up momentum. Martin Luther King was organising marches, sit-ins, boycotts and protests. There was a move towards gaining equality for people regardless of creed, race or religion. Segregation was rife and needed to be utterly destroyed.

The Folk Movement had come out of the Left Wing protests of the 1950s with its social messages from the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers. It stood for freedom, equality and fairness. It supported the unions, fair pay and social justice.

The songs that came out of the early sixties were termed protest songs. They were songs for human rights and justice.

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton were at the forefront singing songs that helped rouse the conscience of the world. The white liberals and radicals joined with the blacks to fight for equality.

With songs like ‘Blowing in the Wind’, ‘To Ramona’, ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’, ‘The Ballad of Medgar Evans’, ‘Links on the Chain’, Power and the Glory’, ‘Only a Pawn in their Game’, ‘Chimes of Freedom’, ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘Here to the State of Mississippi’ and hundreds more, the singer/songwriters took a stance, sang their truth, and opposed the Jim Crow laws. They put their bodies on the line. They supported the freedom riders and went on the marches.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed at the great march on Washington that drew a million people in to hear Martin Luther King speak.

Their voice told the black protestors that they were not alone. White supporters went down South to support the protests and were killed by the rabid racist Klu Klux Klan along with the blacks they were supporting.

Martin Luther King – ‘I Have a Dream’ – the greatest oratory of all time. Equality and freedom – a vision for the future.

Martin Luther King – ‘I Have a Dream’ – the greatest oratory of all time. Equality and freedom – a vision for the future.

This was the March on Washington when a million white and black people joined hands and demanded equality.

The establishment was racist; the people were united against it. They demanded action. White and black stood together as equals. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sang. Martin Luther King delivered the most important speech of modern times.

It was a speech that centred on the injustices but did not invoke hatred. Instead it focussed on a vision for a future in which both black and white would prosper together as equals and be mutually benefitted. It was a world in which racism was seen as the evil it was.

That is the future I want and fight for.

Martin Luther King knew exactly what he was doing; he was putting his life on the line. He knew he would be killed for his eloquent words, passion and hope for the future. It did not deter him. He spoke his mind and the content of his heart.

Without him we would not have the world we have today. There is still racism, poverty and war but there is also a huge improvement, a voice and a hope. It shines. Racism, ignorance, poverty and war will be conquered by non-violent protest.

The creationists, fundamentalists, ISIS, racists, elitists and those who create war, injustice and poverty will be defeated by intelligence, wisdom and love.

Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech August 28 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?”

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our chlidren are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.”

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exhalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Human Rights – The UN Charter of Human Rights – Article 2

Human Rights – The UN Charter of Human Rights – Article 2

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Homo sapiens – the thinking man. We are all one species. Our similarities far exceed our differences. We all have the same rights.

The arbitrary separation into gender, race, culture and nationality is superficial.

We are all free people with rights and freedoms.

We need to work to ensure those rights, freedoms and respect are universally applied!

That is something worth fighting for (in a non-violent manner)!

Let us prove we are worthy of the name – THINKING – and can rise above the indoctrination that restricts our thoughts and actions.