Freedom.

For me, freedom is not the right to bear arms and do what you like. It is about living responsibly within a society without violence, hatred or division. Within that society, I want to be free to do what I want without repression, oppression or restriction providing I do not do harm to others, incite hatred or violence, or infringe on other peoples’ rights. That is a compromise.

Freedom to me is having a good standard of life without having to work too hard or in dangerous conditions.

Freedom is about living in an environment that is pleasant, congenial and has respect for nature.

Freedom is about not having to worry about healthcare, injustice, discrimination, exploitation or violence.

Freedom is about having choice.

I feel extremely fortunate to live in a country with a great deal of freedom.

I think we take it for granted.

I live in the UK.

I am free to travel inside my country or abroad.

I can follow or criticise any religion I want.

I can vote for any political party.

I can follow and criticise any political party without fear of retribution.

I live in a country that at least aspires to provide equality to all races, religions and genders (even if there is still inherent racism, sexism and prejudice).

I have access to free education and healthcare.

I have a pension.

I have a welfare system as a safety-net should I need it.

In the workplace, there are rights – minimum pay,  safe working conditions, maximum hours, holiday pay, employer contributions to pension and health.

We do not have a brutal armed police regime.

We have clear restrictions on detainment and the conditions we experience when detained.

We have a justice system.

We are not terrorised by crime. Our criminals are rarely armed. Our society is not riddled with guns.

There are environmental laws to prevent the environment from being destroyed and my food, air, soil and water being polluted.

I am free to protest and complain.

 

If I compare this to other countries, even Western democracies like the USA, I feel extremely fortunate. Many countries have tyrannical governments, theocracies where other religions or atheism are persecuted, discrimination against homosexuals, women or racial minorities, gagging of protest, heavy police states with armed police and no adequate justice systems. There are places where workers are exploited to the point of being slaves and the environment is trashed for profit, where the air, water and soil are so heavily contaminated as to be a health hazard.

Our rights and freedoms have been long fought-for over many centuries. This is not the result of benevolence from our rulers and bosses. They gave every shred of freedom grudgingly and are always looking to claw it back.

We see in the States the environmental laws being dismantled and workers’ rights being reduced – to maximise profits and stimulate the economy (ie. to put more money in the pockets of the wealthy).

We see the same thing in the UK with Brexit where environmental laws and workers’ rights are up for grabs.

History shows that we have to be vigilant.

I am glad I am living in a free country. It is by no means perfect. There are many battles ahead to maintain our rights and freedoms and to improve upon them.

But, every now and again, perhaps we should stand back and think how lucky we are to live in a country with such freedom and how grateful we should be for the people who fought (and gave their lives) for us to enjoy these freedoms.

The onus is on us now to build upon them.

 

Freedom to not wear a face mask

Matt sent this through to me in a tweet. Unfortunately, it was in a form I couldn’t copy so I retyped it.

Thank you to whoever wrote it. Very salutary!

Freedom to not wear a face mask

Welcome to the Freedom Café!

We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food.

We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom, but understand that some people might be allergic to soaps or may prefer simply not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.

We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is fine and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs.

Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason why a healthy person with clean hands can’t touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are all healthy and clean.

Water temperatures and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they prefer to wash the silverware you will put in your mouth.

Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you’ll agree that it’s a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do – and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy.

Migration and Immigration – why we need checks.

Migration and Immigration – why we need checks.

The overriding issue that was behind Brexit was immigration. There is a fear of terrorism, a feeling that we are being swamped with foreigners – particularly Muslims and Eastern Europeans, a sense that they are taking our jobs, receiving housing and benefits, causing overcrowding, creating problems for schools and the NHS, putting pressure on transport, displacing our culture and not wanting to assimilate and take on British values.

How accurate are these fears?

Is there a basis to them?

Is an opposition to mass immigration xenophobic or even racist?

The British people are a mongrel race. We always have been. We take in immigrants from all over the world, welcome them and assimilate them into our culture. I like the richness of culture that introduces. I like the cosmopolitan communities it produces and I like the way immigrants over the centuries have assimilated, become British, taken on our customs and values while still celebrating their own heritage.

But I do not think it is either racist or xenophobic to be concerned with mass immigration. It is the sheer numbers and attitudes of the recent immigrants that are causing the problems.

We have areas of the country with high Muslim populations who have completely displaced the indigenous people and culture. The perception is that many do not wish to assume British values at all. There are militants in the Muslim community who espouse to take over Britain and bring in Sharia law. The Hijab and Burqa do not fit easy with many people. It represents a culture and attitudes they do not agree with. Many, because of the association with terrorism and this strident, arrogant militancy, find it threatening.

There are a number of Muslims who support ISIS and the Caliphate. People find this traitorous to the country they have come to live in. ISIS is our avowed enemy. We have had terrorism from these militants. It creates suspicion and fear. In reality the number of incidents are few, the Intelligence Services are doing a good job rooting the militants out before they cause atrocities, and most Muslims do not subscribe to these extreme views.

There are Eastern European shops opening all over the place and Eastern European languages all around in many cities. I do not think that people have a problem with this until it reaches a point where they feel saturated and displaced.

Yes it does cause big pressures on the NHS, Schools, housing and the infra-structure. That causes aggravation but I don’t think it is the main issue.

The main issue is not one of racism, xenophobia or pressures on services – it is simply that there have been too many people coming in.

I believe we need immigration. We need labour for our economy. We need to staff the NHS, to pick crops, to work in Old People’s Homes. These people are valued. Their cultures are respected.

But when they come here they should respect our culture and if they are planning to stay, be prepared to assimilate into our communities.

In my opinion this integration is not assisted by more Faith Schools or concentrations of immigrants in any one area.

Education is the long-term solution. But mass immigration needs curbing. We need to stop so many coming into the country and the ones that do come in need processing. We do not need terrorists, criminals or people who do not subscribe to our values being allowed into the country.

We did not need to leave Europe to achieve this. Most of Europe wants the same thing. It surely is not beyond the wit of man to devise a practical system?

Billy Bragg and Leon Rosselson – World turned upside Down! The Story of the Diggers of St George’s Hill.

Billy Bragg and Leon Rosselson – World turned upside Down! The Story of the Diggers of St George’s Hill.

I lived down the road from St George’s Hill and even had a girlfriend who lived there but I did not realise anything about its history until much later.

St George’s hill was the centre of a great political struggle. A group of poor people defied the land owners. They claimed that the land was no-ones to own; that is was free. They claimed the right to farm the common land and live in peace.

The land had been seized by the powerful aristocrats. The King and his barons laid claim to it all and parcelled it up between them. They sold it to their cronies. The common people had no rights.

The Diggers on St George’s Hill were attacked by the army and killed and dispersed. Their homes and crops were burnt and they were driven off.

The cruel incident was described in song by Leon Rosselson and covered by Billy Bragg.

The World Turned Upside Down – Leon Rosselson

In 1649
To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords
They defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs

We come in peace they said
To dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common
And to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided
We will make whole
So it will be
A common treasury for all

The sin of property
We do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell
The earth for private gain
By theft and murder
They took the land
Mow everywhere the walls
Spring up at their command

They make the laws
To chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven
Or they damn us into hell
We will not worship
The God they serve
The God of greed who feed the rich
While poor folk starve

We work we eat together
We need no swords
We will not bow to the masters
Or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free men
Though we are poor
You Diggers all stand up for glory
Stand up now

From the men of property
The orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers
To wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages
Destroy their corn
They were dispersed
But still the vision lingers on

You poor take courage
You rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury
For everyone to share
All things in common
All people one
We come in peace
The orders came to cut them down

Read more: Billy Bragg – The World Turned Upside Down Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Civil Rights – The murder of Medgar Evers.

Civil Rights – The murder of Medgar Evers.

 

Medgar Evers was a Civil Rights leader in Mississippi. He campaigned for desegregation. He was involved with the desegregation of schools and colleges, desegregation of beaches, restrooms and organised boycotts. His high profile activities and leadership role made him a target for the white supremacists. They threatened to kill him if he did not stop.

 

Medgar, like so many of those Civil Rights Activists, was a brave man. He knew these were no idle threats and that if he continued to fight for freedom and justice he would most likely be murdered. It did not deter him.

 

He continued even after a car came close to running him down outside his house and a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of his house. He did not stop despite the risks to himself and his young family. Freedom was worth dying for.

 

Back in Mississippi the life of a black man was cheap. There was no protection from the law. People were beaten, shot and lynched with impunity. The Kl Klux Klan were rife and many of the police and judges were in the organisation. There was no protection. The black community was terrorised.

 

How many people would have the courage to continue in the face of such threats? Knowing that in the dead of night a callous murdered could set fire to your house or shoot you in your bed and there was no police to help you?

 

Medgar Evers did not flinch.

 

On June the 12th 1963, as he was getting out of his car in the drive of his house, Medgar Evers was shot in the back.

 

The coward white supremacist Byron Del La Beckwith, a member of the Klu Klux Klan, had hidden in the bushes and shot him in the back.

 

Many people wrote tributes and songs to Medgar Evers – the most important being Bob Dylan’s – ‘Only a Pawn in their Game’ – which suggested that Byron was a pawn being used by the senior faceless supremacists who were terrorising people for their own ends.

 

Freedom has been bought with blood! It is always hard to gain and easy to give away!

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Abolition of Slavery in the United States of America.

Democracy – The long and often bloody fight for freedom – The Abolition of Slavery in the United States of America.

The use of slaves was widespread in America though there were some opposition from certain groups. They were used as domestics, artisans or field workers. These Africans were imported via the Arab slave traders in what had become a lucrative trade.

With the American War of Independence slavery was maintained. The Southern States had the greatest numbers as their agricultural practices of growing tobacco, cotton and rice was very labour intensive.

In 1808 an act came in prohibiting the importation of slaves. The Northern States began abolishing slavery. In 1830 abolitionists such as John Brown favoured armed force to forment riots among black slaves. Baptists and Methodists preached for the abolition of slavery.

It all came to a head in 1860 with the civil war. The Northern States renounced slavery and the Southern States supported it. In 1863 Lincoln’s proclamation of Emancipation promised freedom for slaves. At the end of the war in 1865 the proclamation was enforced throughout America and slaves were freed.

Unfortunately that was not the end of the matter. The aftermath of slavery is still felt today with a legacy of racism that pervades many parts of the States. Up until the civil rights movements of the 1960s blacks in the South were not permitted to vote, were forced to use second rate facilities and institutions and treated as second-class citizens. The White Supremacists of the Klu Klux Klan maintained an apartheid system through force and terror.

In the modern age this racism, which still persists, is intolerable.

The hope that the election of a black president signalled the dawn of a new age is still perhaps premature. There is a way to go.

Freedom is won through the bravery of men like Medgar Evans and Martin Luther King and the determined struggle of those white and black activists and people who stood up to be counted, protested and marched despite the intimidation and threats. Many were killed in that struggle. It still is not complete.

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?

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!!

Skin Colour

Skin Colour

skinr skin

We are all children of Africa. Our species evolved from the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. We have a common ancestor with the Chimpanzees and Gorillas with who we share 99% of our genes.

There used to be a number of different species of hominids but unfortunately only two survived to recent times and our close relatives, the Neanderthals, didn’t make it. We are alone.

We nearly didn’t either. At one point it appears that our numbers got so perilously low that extinction was the more likely option. We prevailed.

Now we are present in teeming numbers (7 billion and counting) and are changing the very eco-structure and climate of the planet.

We appear to be so different yet we are not. I look at Asian, African, Australian and European and I see differences. Under the skin, aside from the cosmetics of appearance, we are the same. Incredibly there is more genetic variation within groups than between groups. We can all be traced back to the same mother.

I wonder. I can imagine her sitting on her haunches in that African valley, cradling her first born, surveying the landscape, watching the rest of her troupe, and wondering. She could have had no idea.

At first our skin was black; full of the pigment melanin. That black pigment gave us protection against the strong UV light of the African sun. That sun gave us Vitamin D but it also gave us melanoma. With our hairless bodies we need protection.

When we migrated out of Africa to more temperate regions we underwent minor mutations. They gave us our body shapes, our facial characteristics and our skin colours. The different races of mankind were born.

We were all black once.

In terms of skin colour the reasons are simple. We need Vitamin D to keep us healthy and give us strong bones. We need protection against UV Light to prevent skin cancer. It is a balance. In the tropical sun the skin needs to be black. In the temperate regions white. And in the between regions shades of brown.

Our skin colour is the result of minor mutations to balance protection from the UV rays and the production of vitamins.

Now we settle in various parts of the world there are certain lessons we need to learn. If you are black and living in Norway then take some vitamin supplement and get out in the sun as much as possible. If you are white and living in Africa then cover up and use strong sun shield.

Incredible to think that such pragmatic evolution should have resulted in such prejudice, discrimination, racism and hatred.

Human beings are a recent evolutionary invention. We are not yet civilised. We have much to learn. We are still cruel, tribal and incredibly stupid.

It is our mother’s birthday! We should all celebrate.

Human Rights – The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – Article 3.

Human Rights – The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – Article 3.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Give people the means to have a reasonable quality of life.
That means more equality and freedom, less indoctrination, less selfishness and greed and more compassion and harmony.

That means universal laws to respect people’s freedom, education, and security. So they cannot be bullied by governments, or religions or killed or intimidated by fanatics, wrongly imprisoned, tortured or prevented from having views and a choice.

It is simple really!!!