Isolation is strange. This amused me!
There was another day sailing north further up the coast of Brazil towards its largest port – the fabled Santos. Santos was famous for two things – coffee and Pele.
Unfortunately El Nino was exerting its power and unsettling the weather. We had been plagued with unseasonal rain on this trip and Santos was no exception. We headed up the inlet towards the port to find the hills around shrouded with low-lying clouds and the stilted shanty towns along the edges of the inlet all enveloped in mist.
In a coach with windows festooned with droplets we set off to the football ground that made Pele such an international star. On the way we passed by the picturesque bays with islands and sailing boats, long tree-lined promenades and parks. You could see that with the sun shining it would have been beautiful. Even today, in the rain, there was beauty.
Personally I was not enamoured by the shopping centres with their promise of cheap merchandise due to the weakness of the Brazilian currency but I was taken with the leaning apartment blocks. Some architect had miscalculated the ground stability and need for deeper piles. The foundations were not sufficient. In a few decades they’d start falling over. It looked to me that there was a disaster waiting to happen.
At the stadium we looked at the statues, plaques, art, cups and photographic homage to the great Pele. We went out to see the pitch and I marvelled at how small the stadium was. I had imagined a great stage for such a football genius to display his wares. This place was very modest.
Then it was off to the famous coffee house. Back in the day Brazil had been the centre of the world’s coffee supply. In 1922 the Coffee Exchange was built to facilitate this market. The building looks much older with its unique architecture, brilliant stained glass roof and paintings depicting scenes from the very early days of Santos. These days it is a museum and well worth a visit. I thought the architecture was great. It looked brilliant.
We walked back to the railway stage and boarded one of the newly renovated trams to take us round the old town nice and dry. My mistake was sitting on the outside so that I could take some photographs. Half of me was soaked through. But the ride was interesting. My tram was named Pele.
The old town was old. It was a mass of decaying colonial buildings. It seemed to me that the Brazilians did not value their old buildings. Everything was rotting and falling down. Perhaps there was a psychological factor at work here? They secretly wanted rid of all the vestiges of colonial control.
Back on the ship we headed off back out of the inlet passing the masses of wooden shanties housing the poor and looking far prettier, on their stilts, than they really were. Alongside them was a marina for millionaires’ yachts and huge expensive apartment blocks. That seemed to summarise Brazil – a land of extremes of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ which was responsible for the crime and violence.
I was reminded of that Bob Dylan sentiment about when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
The light was fading as we pulled out. I didn’t think I’d caught the best of Santos. But as we sailed out between the bays and hills and passed the ships moored outside the inlet I was taken with the brilliance of light as it brought everywhere to life. It was magical.
Guantanamo Bay is a complete flouting of international war. It should be vilified by all civilised people. The fact that it exists at all is an illustration of what I believe is wrong with the USA.
Following Al Qaeda attack of 9/11 there was what was called ‘A War Against Terror’. Despite the fact that the 9/11 was carried out mainly by Saudi Arabians (an ally) with no Iraqis involved, it was decided to invade Iraq – and then Afghanistan (which at least did have some connection with the planning – although some planning was carried out in Germany and they weren’t bombed).
The turmoil in the Middle East resulted in the rise of various militant Islamic groups such as ISIS.
A lot of ISIS soldiers and other terrorist suspects were rounded up.
There was a new term in use – unlawful combatant.
Despite the fact that these people (Taliban and ISIS and Al Qaeda) were largely fighting in their own lands they were rounded up and designated ‘unlawful combatants’.
Nobody knew what to do with them. There were no ways of processing them. If released they might go back to fighting.
So they weren’t awarded prisoner of war status. They were not held on US territory. They were shipped to Guantanamo Bay where they could be held indefinitely in subhuman cages. They were not given a trial or any due process and were tortured.
This basically means that anybody could be rounded up, locked up and tortured at will. All human rights were denied.
Now, I know many will shout – ‘Good riddance’ ‘They deserve it!’ ‘They are a bunch of terrorists’.
Well I contend that if they are terrorists they should be tried in a court and punished accordingly. If they are soldiers they should be afforded prisoner of war status. And if they are innocent they should be set free.
Guantanamo seems to me to be a brutal, uncivilised way to treat human beings. If we are setting an example to the rest of the world I don’t think this is the way to do it.
Guantanamo is an outrage!
Seemingly the only leaders Trump talks well of are Putin and Kim Jung Un.
On this tour he has so far managed to denigrate all the European leaders, throwing doubt into the future of NATO, putting the boot into Merkel, making outrageous statements about our Lord Mayor and trampling over Theresa May.
Instead of being diplomatic and responsible to the delicate situation that both the German and British governments are now in he has waded in with irresponsible interference. Is he deliberately trying to destabilise Europe and the UK? Putin couldn’t have done a better job! He’s not in the pay of Putin is he? One wonders about those videos that are supposed to exist of him with the Russian hookers. Do they exist? Is he being blackmailed and used? No – surely not!
Well the attitude towards Sadiq Khan is obvious, he is an Islamophobic racist, but to stab May in the back? What’s that about?
It is quite clear that he is treating her with disdain and intent of pushing her over the cliff. If he had his way he’d have Nigel Farage as PM. Given that he can’t get himself elected (you have to give the electorate some credit) the next best is Boris Johnson. He wants the buffoon in power.
What the hell is this arrogant, uncouth narcissist doing interfering in British, German and EU politics???
What if May had gone to the States and started saying how Hilary Clinton would make such a great President????
So Trump told May how to do it and she ignored him?? Well there’s not many times that I would find myself saying GOOD FOR HER!!
So Trump thinks Boris Johnson would make a good PM??? Well good for him!!
I think it would be a great idea for Theresa to cancel the visit, send the arrogant fool packing and tell him in no uncertain terms TO KEEP HIS NOSE OUT OF OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS!!!!!
This is what I think.
The problem with the deployment of Stop and Search in the past was that it was indiscriminate, directed at young blacks, used as a general means of hassling black youth, widely seen as racist, carried out with unnecessary disrespect and rudeness and did not have the consent of the community.
Times have changed.
We now have increased knife-crime and gun-crime in a growing gang culture. Something has to happen.
The attitudes of communities have changed. They want action to stop their children falling prey to the drug/gang culture.
So what is the reason for this increase in gun/knife culture? Like all things there are many reasons:
The draconian cuts to the police force have played a part. You cannot cut the Police budget in London by £1 Billion without it impacting. Violent crime, which had been on the decline for decades, has risen right across the country.
On top of this 40% cuts to Youth Services have also had a big impact. The Youth Services provided a second home to many young people. They received care, advice and help from people they regarded as substitute parents. Now those young people are on their own, out on the streets with nothing to do, prey to drugs, crime and the gangs.
The ending of Stop and Search meant that gangs went unchallenged.
Austerity means that there are not the jobs for kids to aspire to. They see graduates working flipping burgers or belting around delivering pizzas and packages on minimum wage. Why work yourself silly when there’s easy big money to be had dealing?
So what is the answer to this upsurge in murders?
As with all things, there is no easy answer. I would suggest that ending austerity would be a major factor. These kids need to have a future that they can buy into. That would entail proper jobs that have a clear career progression with decent money.
The cuts to the Youth Services was a big mistake. These need to be put back in to provide that guidance and take the kids off the street.
We need to reverse the cuts to the Police so that all crime can be followed up. They need the manpower and resources. Stop the small stuff and it doesn’t develop into big stuff.
And yes – reinstate Stop and Search. As long as it is carried out sensitively, with the consent of the community – as long as it is targeted and intelligence led and not used arrogantly as an extension of prejudice.
Who can you trust? The answer appears to be nobody.
Many people have stopped listening to mainstream news programmes on TV because they believe they are thinly disguised propaganda. They are probably right.
I lost all faith in the BBC when they deliberately inverted the sequence of events at the Orgreave Coke Plant in the Miner’s Strike. It was a deliberate editorial policy that was intended to misrepresent what had happened and place a pro-government slant on events. It was a lie.
Sky is even worse and as for Fox and most American news networks – they are blatantly biased.
Newspapers all have a distinct bias and slant the news according to their editorial policy. Most of the tabloids are atrocious, lying establishment scandal sheets. Some of the rubbish they come out with is so blatant propaganda that Goebbels would be ashamed. Even the more serious ones have their establishment bias – they are owned by wealthy people who want to express their own views.
The whole news machine drip-feeds the messages that the establishment want the population to believe. Seemingly Socialism cannot possibly work, Corbyn is a lunatic, Russia is the enemy, Assad is a monster, ISIS was not set up and financed by the West, North Korea is a monstrous place, Iran is behind much of the terrorism in the Middle East and wants a nuclear bomb to blow up Israel. But who knows?
What are the messages that they want us to believe?
Well one thing is certain – the system is set up and works for the top 1% at the expense of everybody else and they mean to continue this grossly unequal system. They want us to buy into the narrative they put out through the TV and newspapers. The establishment owns the media and controls what we think. A lot of what happens around the world is a profit-making project for rich people.
So many people put their faith in other sites on the web which they believe provide an unbiased view of world events.
I do not believe that those sources are unbiased. I believe they too have a bias and an agenda. They are as much propaganda as anything else. We are attracted to the views which reflect our own and reject all others. There is great danger in that.
So where do we turn to?
I do not think there is anywhere. What is best policy is to access a broad selection, weigh it up, think and keep an open mind – above all THINK and don’t buy into any one view.
The world has changed enormously over these last 500 years and not always for the better. Since Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas and put into motion the events that led to the genocide of the Incas and North American Native Indians, the setting up of the United States, Canada and South America, the introduction of slavery and the rape of the land with its ensuing destruction of wildlife, the human population has gone berserk. All over the planet we teem in great numbers, chopping down forests, hunting and building roads, towns and cities. There is racism, war and huge climate change. We are now in the Anthropocene – a time when humans are impacting on the climate of the planet. The future has never looked as uncertain. Will we pull back from the brink?
I believe that only through a global body to regulate our pollution, climate effects and population, wars, poverty and environmental destruction, can we hope to have a future. Already for many species it is too late. Our planet’s wildlife has been devastated.
I listen to all manner of people telling me that the UN is useless and a waste of money, that any global control is equated with a world government and tyranny, that we want less government and more freedom. Yet they offer no solutions, no alternatives. They simply deny the destruction is happening.
Meanwhile the wars rage, the population soars, poverty for a lot of the world continues, the exploitation of poor people goes unchecked, the forests are cut, the animals slaughtered and the relentless capitalist machine continues forward unchecked. A small elite is creaming it in and evading all taxes and responsibility. The multinationals play nation against nation with impunity and scam us all.
The planet is being raped through mining, fracking, agriculture, pesticides, and urbanisation. So many people are in denial yet the evidence is right there. I see it in my own backyard that used to be a riot of butterflies and bees. The ponds that used to be full of frogspawn. I see it flying over devastated land that used to be jungle teeming with life. I see it when sailing the seas which are bereft of life. I see it in the dirty sprawling cities and overcrowded streets full of desperate people in Asia, India, South America and Africa. Yet people still tell me it isn’t happening.
It feels to me that we are careering towards that edge with people fighting for control of the wheel and nobody reaching for the brake.
Will the United Nations finally come into its own? Because there sure as apples is apples ain’t no superman.
I put my faith in the United Nations and it’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a beacon to humanity. Because I’ve not heard anyone coming out with any other solution and market forces are not going to fix it. The UN Charter for Human Rights is my bible. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
I swear by it:
Prospect Magazine – How I learnt to Loathe England