Another year to ponder over..



It hasn't been the greatest of years. The whole world has been spanked by the effects of one of the severest, financial crisis ever. Madoff, the ill-famed fraud, was bestowed with Christmas gifts of serious facial injuries, a few broken ribs and a punctured lung, but we are assured by the prison authorities that it was not due to any aggression. It was said that he fell out of bed..

To culminate the Italian Prime Minister's poor year he was hit by the fourth, largest Cathedral in the world. As such it could have been fatal, but he was saved by the grace of God and the art of miniaturisation.
Even the Pope himself wasn't spared from the aggressive effects of the various campaigns of hate that we have been blest with for most of 2009. Yet another excessive surprise for Christmas.

And sadly we lost Michael Jackson. But such is life- and death- for living legends, and more so for those who are determined to never age and live in Never, Never Land.

Rupert Murdoch made poor use of what once was one of the most reputable newspapers in Great Britain, to try to do as much damage as possible to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He may even have fractionally succeeded, but perhaps he has done far more harm to the once reputable newspaper he unfortunately owns, along with several others. As he is one of the richest men in the world however, such trifles are unlikely to have marred his Christmas.
It's to Barack Obama's credit that, so far at least, he has resisted Murdoch's propositions. Whilst this remains to be the status quo, he is unlikely to fair well in Rupert's tabloids despite the temporary 'truce'. One of Fox News' sketches of him was ... 'just short of a terrorist'. Such is the influence of the press and it's illustrious magnates.

And with Internet of course the wealth of information is such that one can find virtually anything to support what one wants to believe. This is beginning to have an adverse effect, 'the boy who cried wolf phenomenon', when one starts to be wary of what one might wrongly believe to be false information or propaganda.
The effect of repetitive coverage of so many suicide attacks incredibly seems to make one virtually immune to them. If this is so, it would mean that their effect no longer has any real, political influence. Futile, blind and brainless assassinations of innocent people.

The crucial elections of Iran and Afghanistan had full coverage this year, both accused to be fraudulent by the losing oppositions. The West accept the results of the latter but not those of the former. A question of choice based on interests. Principle doesn't enter into it, even if that's what Nato is also  supposed to be defending in Afghanistan.
Yet it's probable that the Afghan fraud was far more massive than that of Iran. Both elected Presidents must assume the consequences. Those of Iran are irreversible, but surely this was part of the regime's program- to clear the stage in order to be able to set Ahmadinejad's 'earth shattering scenario'..
It remains to be seen how many more students and supporters of the opposition they will need to kill or imprison to clear the stage.

There was Climategate then the Copenhagen summit. At least a start which is important in itself, even if the results of the latter appear to be as deceiving as the discovery of the former.

In 2005 there was the Danish Cartoon controversy. Not offensive providing one reached the obvious conclusion that they consisted of a legitimate criticism of Islamic terrorism- or trying to justify the unjustifiable. The violence, hate and intolerance practised for so called 'religious motives'. For those who reason, the offenders weren't the critics, the offenders were, and are still, the subject of such criticism.
Four years later the Swiss voted against minarets in Switzerland. Again the Islamic authorities have taken offence. Perhaps it's easier to condemn the decision of a non Muslim, sovereign State exercising its democratic rights, than to condemn those same offenders who have given- and are still giving- Islam such a bad name.
It's not as though there's any lack of media access for the cleric authorities of Islam to establish once and for all- for the sake of the world's populations of Muslims and non Muslims- the difference between good and evil.

The Taliban want the Occident to believe that the war in Afghanistan is another Vietnam Pandora, more because they would like to believe it themselves. But 'once bitten twice shy'. Nato now knows what's at stake. It may have taken a few years, and a few International mass murders, but at last the authorities  seem to have cottoned on.
Obama however has confidently informed our enemies that the war will end in 2013. Nato will pack up then and go home. If one accepts that this war is international and that it's not necessarily for Afghanistan, which only represents the present epicentre of a deformed Jihad, one might question the wisdom of this confident declaration. Hard to imagine Roosevelt and Churchill making a public announcement in 1939 informing the world that the allies will stop fighting the Nazis and go home in 1942, but of course times change. In 2009 we are blest with leaders who have a much greater foresight capacity.
If the Taliban were intelligent however, (which fortunately- at least so far- doesn't seem to be the case) they would pack up, go home and make babies, then come back in 2013, retake Afghanistan, then take Pakistan. They would then have the whole world at their beck and call..
All food for thought for the slow and steady.
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Text and image © Mirino (PW) December, 2009

A seasonal poem




When icicles hang from one's nose,
 And one lies frozen 'tween the sheets,
And you can never warm your toes,
And snow lies deeply in the streets; 

When ice forms solid on windscreens,
 Or to start the car you have no means,
Then you receive the garage bill! 

A merry note from greasy Will.

When all around is grey and bleak,
   And coughing means you've caught pig flu,
And iced up pipes begin to leak,
And for the plumber there's a queue; 

  When lips are sore, chapped and split   
 And ev'n gloved hands become frost-bit
And chilblains then inflict your feet!
You live in hope for global heat.

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Text (with apologies to Shakespeare) and image © Mirino (PW) December, 2009

'L'Inglorieuse' Révolution

 

La Révolution Française. Une bête acharnée, sauvage et quasi incontrôlable, relâchée à faire comme bon lui semble. Comment pouvait-elle incarner l'Egalité, la Liberté et la Fraternité? Au contraire, de continuer à faire semblant, à la célébrer comme si c'était bien le cas, est de l'hypocrisie cynique, indigne de la vérité et de la mémoire de tant de victimes innocentes.

Tous les faits sont soigneusement archivés et disponibles, comme ceux des massacres et noyades de Nantes, ou les tueries de Vendée- parmi lesquels celui de la Chapelle de Notre-Dame où 564 personnes furent froidement massacrés au sabre et à la baïonnette dans ce lieu sacré. Voici l'ordre de Huché: 'Enfoncez-leur vos sabres jusqu'à la garde dans le corps. Taillez et retaillez...'
Le froid massacre des prêtres et des religieuses, l'obligation d'abjurer la religion, surtout le Catholicisme. Une guerre diabolique contre Dieu lui-même. La dévastation et le pillage des églises, les enlèvements, la destruction ou les refontes des clochers datant même parfois du XII siècle.

C'était bien un règne de terreur où il ne suffit que d'avoir une voisine jalouse ou malveillante pour finir décapité(e) à la guillotine. Mais avant d'y arriver, il fallait traverser l'horreur des prisons, souvent sans eau ni nourriture, ni vêtements contre le froid- car selon les bourreaux- pourquoi s'en préoccuper s'ils vont être guillotinés?

Il y a des récits atroces, des chasses aux sorcières, des horreurs commises par 'les Bleus' de Cordellier, les massacres des Beaufou, la Gaubretière, Lucs, Saint-Sulpice-le-Verdon, Mormaison... Voici encore un rapport du Général Huché de l'armée glorieuse de la République: 'Je les égayés de la bonne manière; ils étaient en trop petit nombre pour en faire grand carnage. Plus de cinq cents, tant hommes que femmes ont été tués... J'ai fait fureter les genêts, les fossés, les haies et les bois, et c'est là qu'on les trouvait blottis. Tout a passé par le fer, car j'avais défendu que, les trouvant ainsi, on consommât ses munitions.'...

Ce sont seulement quelques petits récits parmi tant d'autres événements barbares et inutiles de cette histoire. Car à partir de la prise de la Bastille le 14 juillet, 1789- qui en elle-même sembla avoir déjà établi un précèdent de cruauté injustifiée- jusqu'à la fin, il y a assez de tels exemples pour remplir des volumes.

Aujourd'hui, où il se passent des événements ailleurs dans le monde qui devraient aussi nous rappeler de ce qui s'est déroulé vers la fin du XVIII siècle en France, (des horreurs haineuses et barbares, l'intolérance religieuse, les répressions cruelles et tyranniques, etc.) comment peut on prétendre que les principes fondamentaux de la Révolution Française, cette Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité étaient mis en valeur, en pratique, et respectés?
N'est il pas temps que l'on soit officiellement plus honnête et intègre concernant la réalité, les faits incontestables de cette partie terrible de l'histoire française, au lieu de continuer à vouloir perpétuer un mythe- pour la forme et le bien de la République?

Si la Révolution Française fut inévitable, même nécessaire, si les beaux principes- plutôt utopiques- que l'on proclame toujours haut et fort, sont réellement valables, est ce qu'on a le droit de considérer tous ces événements, tous ces faits, partie intégrale de quelque chose de 'glorieuse'?

Cette bête acharnée, sauvage et quasi incontrôlable a fini par se tuer elle-même, mais on n'a pas le droit de minimiser le mal qu'elle avait fait auparavant, et encore moins de la glorifier.   

Avant de mourir cependant, elle a fait naître un Empereur auto-proclamé. Lui aussi est allé trop loin, certainement en Espagne et en Russie, mais malgré les critiques d'aujourd'hui (bien moins tendre avec lui qu'avec les criminels de la Révolution) c'est possible, ironiquement, que ce soit surtout lui qui a re-légitimé la République, la stabilisée et sauvé la France du vortex infernal, des conséquences irrévocables de sa propre Révolution.

 
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Text  © Mirino (PW) December, 2009. Source-L'Anti-89. Images (modified) Google archives.   

The vicar of St. Jude




The vicar of St. Jude
Is a man of habitude
Always ready for his
Varied congregation.

Yet he, unlike the Pope
Has little left of hope
For support to finance
The restoration.

Those gathering in the nave
Can neither spend nor save,
 Though bats would make donations
From the rafters,

And the mice beneath the pews
Would gnaw the vicar's shoes
And nibble hymn book pages
For their afters.
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The above might seem a bit irreverent, but it was carried out (many years ago) with love and respect. Things were not, and are still not that dramatic- thank the Lord- and whatever one's religion, or lack of it, we are all proud of our heritage, of our venerable Churches and Cathedrals. And because many of them have survived several, troubled centuries of history, perhaps they now represent our aspirations more than ever.

Although the above obviously pertains to an imaginary, English, parochial Church, surely this would be a general, European sentiment.

We can't all afford to be supportive towards the 'local parish Church', especially nowadays, and even less of us are regular Church goers in any case, yet unconsciously we identify with the Churches and Cathedrals we and our ancestors (in some cases from as far back as the 9th century) grew up with.

'Irreverent perhaps but carried out with love and respect' could equally apply to the master masons' impressive, artistic embellishments. The gargoyles (from the French 'gargoyle'- originally throat or gullet, to drain water from roofs, before the Godsend of gutters and drainpipes) and grotesques that seem to mock the very reason of being of the Cathedrals they grin or scowl from. Master masons' whims, signatures and secrets that seem to temper the righteousness of sacred monuments, timeless feats of architecture. Or it's thought they were sculpted to scare people into attending Church, reminding them that 'the end is nigh'. But it's more likely they were intended to keep evil spirits away from Holy sanctuaries. They were not always appreciated however. St Bernard of Clairvaux, (1090-1153) commissioned by the Pope to encourage the second Crusade, condemned the various monsters and animals that protruded from his Church. 

In history not all evil spirits have been kept away very easily, and it seems that we have entered into another period of having to cope with them once again. For it can't be good to claim to have the monopoly of righteousness, certainly without practising it. It's not good to disdain the culture, history and religion of others, to impose one's will by force, and commit odious crimes in the name of the God one claims to worship, thus using the religion one pretends to fervently abide by, as a pretext to commit evil.

Through centuries of history Europeans have fought each other for power, politics, territory and also for religious reasons. From the terrible lessons of hate, prejudice and intolerance, of war, and of constantly improved technology that has since made full scale warfare more senseless than ever, we have learnt to be more tolerant. In spite of, and because of our differences, we have learnt to appreciate one another- each European nation- as being essential to Europe and the world. We have won our unity.

But tolerance has to be reciprocal, general, international, to reign correctly. That 'intolerance is intolerable' isn't so much a paradox, it's a principle of democracy. It should also be a principle of every religion. It's why two world wars had to be fought, and why even now, there's a war in Afghanistan, and why there are other conflicts elsewhere. Freedom and civilisation depend on tolerance, which means tolerance within the limits of reason.
The New Testament tells us to turn the other cheek, but this is only possible if one has the freedom to do so, if circumstances permit, and that if by doing so, it leads to a positive consequence.
(Clint Eastwood's film, Gran Torino is a wonderful, fictive example of this).

Our Churches and Cathedrals are still standing, and somehow or other, whatever our faith, we shall make sure that they continue to do so, because we are still standing, and shall always make sure that we continue to do so.
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Italiano
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Text and illustration © Mirino (PW) Dcember, 2009

Writhing and fainting in coils



Had he known the extent of 'wake' his best work would leave behind, Lewis Carroll would surely have been overwhelmed.
Perhaps the reason for the fascination his chef-d'oeuvre 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' endlessly evokes is more profound than one might imagine.

He was a man of his epoch used to its rigours and discipline. A deeply religious man and a fine mathematician who, as Master and Tutor at Christ Church College, Oxford, taught within the boundaries of logic and no doubt thought within the boundaries of his religion and social observances.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll (derived from Lutwidge, his mother's maiden name, the German for Lewis, and the Latin for Charles- Carolus) was however to meet young Alice Liddell who inspired him into improvising 'Alice's Adventures Underground', which was to become 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'.

If Carroll fell in love with little Alice, perhaps it was more with what she represented for him as a writer and adept photographer, than with her real self. This epitome of an unspoilt, (or spoilt) innocent young girl was for him an ideal, and the essence of his inspiration. If the sequel, 'Through the Looking Glass' was less spontaneous and inspired, it was more an adieu to little Alice who was to become 'Queen' and finally leave her immortalised youth behind.

Carroll was a devout and disciplined man who stuttered. A skilled logician living in the oppressive, hypocritically 'moral', 'tightly corseted' Victorian age- from which he contributed to liberate his young readers, as well as himself, by giving freedom and immortality to Alice. She was to be seen and heard.
He gave her the freedom of a dream world of nonsense where everything and anything within the limits of innocent youth are possible or impossible, yet to Alice, quite acceptable but always questionable. A dream world where time stands still.

Only a logician would know how to create such a land of credible nonsense, for even nonsense must be harnessed by logic to be credible. The Caterpillar, for example, is so evocative because of its logical (illogical) description. He is blue, exactly three inches high, smoking a long hookah and sitting on a perfectly round mushroom.

Alice's dream must also allow her to break free from the rigours of Victoriana. She must be able to wave aside basic arithmetic and make parodies of the austere, stuffy, moral poems of her time. 'How doth the little bee...' (first line of Isaac Watts' poem moralising against idleness) becomes 'How doth the little crocodile...', and his moralistic 'Tis the voice of the sluggard...' becomes- 'Tis the voice of the Lobster...'. Similarly 'You are old Father William...' is the amusing parody of Robert Southey's 'Consolations of a pious old man'. The 'Turtle Soup' song is the parody of 'Evening Star' which was a popular song of that time.

It is revealing that Carroll's poem parodies have easily outlived the virtuous originals.

Alice was thus able to question and ridicule the rigid values of the epoch, and in her Wonderland she was free to explore and adapt, even in size, to the ever changing surroundings of her adventures.

She was both the participant and the unimpressed observer, ever curious, ever confident and sometimes selfish as young children often are. Carroll's ideal, young girl eternalised in a dream where time stands as still as it does at the Mad Tea-Party.

'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' has been illustrated well over two hundred times in English versions alone. It has been translated many times consecutively in foreign languages. In French it has been translated at least seventeen times. There is also a strong following for Alice in many countries including Japan, where, according to an eminent collector of Carolliana, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' is considered to be one of the world's greatest masterpieces for children. In Japan it has been translated over forty times and illustrated at least twenty six times.

It's understandable why this work continues to attract not only artists but also translators and writers. The attraction and challenge for an artist are obvious and varied but there are points in common with those of a translator. Carroll's Wonderland is full of visual problems, often puzzles for an illustrator to solve. A three-legged, round, glass table, for example, seen from any angle is visually a geometrical problem. And the dispute between the gardeners must be closely followed in order to accurately convey the action taking place. Even Tenniel took liberties here.

For a translator the problems to solve are not only literary, they are also mathematical in certain ways, especially concerning the poems and play of words. Finding the equivalents, puns and parodies that a particular nation's culture can appreciate and identify with, and at the same time retaining the evocative style, the meanings, the rhyming, the feeling, with that particular atmosphere that Lewis Carroll wanted most to convey, is by no means easy.

The one translation that Lewis Carroll was keen to help with, was the first French translation, the results of which still make it in many experts' opinion, the best.
Although Henri Bué, son of one of Carroll's teacher colleagues of French at Oxford University, finished his translation incredibly quickly, Carroll took over two more years himself to make sure everything was as perfect as he wished it to be. This may explain why the Bué translation is still as fresh and undated as Carroll's own text. Certain French translators since then sometimes seem to get a little over zealous so that their results tend to be more laboured and sometimes pedantic.

It is certainly poignant to observe the gradual changes in one's growing daughter, and Alice, the immortalised child, is a wonderful thought and a wonderful gift.

Lewis Carroll lived with his sister during the final years of his life. The house, 'The Chestnuts', can still be seen in Guilford, South London. There is also a tiny museum dedicated to him quite near the house.
One can walk up the hill along the long lane to St. Michael's Cemetery where Charles Dodgson, alias Lewis Carroll is buried. His modest grave is next to an old yew tree near the little chapel in the centre. There's nothing particularly significant written upon it, and perhaps it's still untended and in need of repair. Yet like Shakespeare, even Lewis Carroll needs no monument. As Milton wrote of Shakespeare- 'What needs't thou such weak witness to thy name?' For there's no doubt that Lewis Carroll built for himself and for 'Alice' too, the most wonderful, eternal monument that no stone could ever compete with, including any of his own white ones.
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 (First written for Mischmasch, the Lewis Carroll Society, Japan). Text and illustration © Mirino (PW) Dcember, 2009

High hopes for Europe


What can one say?
Certainly one must never judge by appearances, but if one should, then it would be obvious that Brussels' first error of choice lay there. Amongst the various criticisms of European press, one even heard the suggestion that Brussels have come up with a carrot and a turnip. At least it would make a change from sprouts.
The Daily Telegraph seem to hit the nail squarely on the head by suggesting that such results reflect European leaders' reluctance to delegate too much power to Brussels.

Baroness Ashton is anticipated to be a "first rate disaster" by Peter Ludlow (European Strategy Forum). After having abandoned Tony Blair because of European lack of support, Gordon Brown's choice of the inexperienced Labour peer surprised most European leaders.

As Mr. Van Rompuy is an economist as well as a staunch federalist who writes poetry, one wonders what sort of poetry he would produce. One also wonders why he accepted the post when he is still needed as his nation's Prime Minister to continue to stabilise what has been a very critical period for Belgium.

Considering that the Lisbon Treaty's reason of creating these key posts was to give the EU strong and unified representation in world affairs, such unconvincing choices would seem to have all the potential of creating the adverse effect.

However let's try to be fair, more philosophic and optimistic. The US president, for example, gave us aspiring hopes and he has since been somewhat disappointing. Brussels' two choices, which remind one of an absent minded school teacher and his hysterical assistant, inspire no one, yet who knows? They may well accept the challenge to prove just how wrong everyone is to have such doubts...
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Text and image © Mirino. 'Pigs may fly' © November, 2009. 

Royal initiatives



En règle générale je préfère poster des articles plus personnels ou globaux au lieu de trop faire allusion à une actualité nationale. Mais comme je trouve cette initiative scandaleuse, je crois que l'on doive le souligner.

Malgré l'opposition du Luc Chatel, ministre de l'Education Nationale,  Ségolène Royal, présidente de la région Poitou-Charentes confirme qu'elle va fournir à une centaine de lycées de sa région des 'chèques contraception'.

Selon Mme Royal, "cette action est préparée depuis trois ans et a l'accord de tous les partenaires. Je suis bien décidé à la continuer"...
Premier coût de l'opération- 400,000 euros des contribuables de la région.

Mais personne ne parle de l'accord des parents des élèves. Personne ne lève le sujet de quoi en fait il s'agit. Il s'agit de prendre une initiative morale et physique sans aucune invitation des premiers concernés. De quel droit Ségolène Royal se mêle des affaires qui ne la regardent aucunement? Prétend elle savoir mieux que des parents des filles mineures ce qui est mieux pour elles? Voit-elle dans son initiative un progrès exemplaire et positif pour l'éducation nationale et le futur du pays?

Si, comme elle souligne, il y a 6,000 grossesses précoces dont 500 en Poitou-Charentes par défaut d'information ou à cause d'être isolées, ne serait il pas mieux d'investir plutôt pour améliorer l'accès d'information préventive et de faire en sorte que personne ne soit isolée?
On pourrait aussi se demander pourquoi Madame Royal comme présidente de Poitou-Charentes n'a rien fait pour améliorer l'accès à l'information nécessaire, ni rien fait pour empêcher de tels cas d'isolement dans sa région durant cette période? En somme ce qu'elle dit pourrait être interprété comme un aveu de négligence si elle croit que ce problème soit de sa responsabilité. 

Au lieu donc de traiter intelligemment la question préventive et morale, Mme Royal- qui sait mieux que tout le monde- facilite les choses avec une sorte de carnet de tickets (comme pour les restaurants) pour des consultations gratuites, pour l'achat de contraceptifs, pour faire des analyses médicales et pour faire une visite de contrôle médicale.

Malgré toutes les justifications que Mme Royal peut brandir comme des drapeaux de la liberté sexuelle dépassée, la seule qui compte reste honteusement manquante, celle de l'autorité parentale.
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By Mirino. With apologies to Mme Royal and more so to Leonardo da Vinci. November, 2009

The Wall


It's revealing how much more significant the pulling down of the Berlin wall now seems twenty years after the actual event. Naturally in retrospect we see everything in a clearer perspective. Twenty years ago it was considered more a German affair. Up to fifteen years ago one might be more concerned about the cost of the reunification, and the fear of hosting too many 'Easterners'.
Today we realise that it wasn't 'only' Germany that was divided, it was Europe, and by extension the whole world.

This seems to indicate that in the last twenty years we have made positive social and geopolitical progress, and this timely realisation has spurred our leaders to get together to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this historic event and hail the courage of the Berliners.

The Wall existed from 1961 until 1989. Escapees numbered around 5000 of which it's thought that up to two hundred died in the attempt.
The Communists referred to the wall as the 'Antifascist Protection Wall' (Antifaschistischer Schutzwall) while The West Berliners would sometimes refer to it as 'the Wall of Shame', after Willy Brandt had made this allusion.

The origin of the wall was the Berlin Blockade imposed by Soviet Russia in 1948 due to disagreements regarding the reconstruction of Germany. It was to represent the division of doctrine and part of the Iron Curtain. But the actual wall was eventually considered imperative to stop the 'brain-drain'. The officials of Eastern Germany were growing increasingly preoccupied by the flow of  well educated young people emigrating to the west.

It has been suggested that the instigator of the wall initiative came from Nikita Khrushchev.
The building of the wall started in August, 1961. Two months prior to this the Socialist Unity Party made a public declaration that- 'No one has any intention of erecting a wall'.

But six years beforehand, to underline the seriousness of any 'flight from the republic', an East German propaganda booklet was published in 1955 :

'Both from the moral standpoint as well as in terms of the interests of the whole German nation, leaving the GDR is an act of political and moral backwardness and depravity.
Those who let themselves be recruited objectively serve West German Reaction and militarism, whether they know it or not. Is it not despicable when for the sake of a few alluring job offers or other false promises about a "guaranteed future" one leaves a country in which the seed for a new and more beautiful life is sprouting, and is already showing the first fruits, for the place that favours a new war and destruction?
Is it not an act of political depravity when citizens, whether young people, workers, or members of the intelligentsia, leave and betray what our people have created through common labour in our republic to offer themselves to the American or British secret services or work for the West German factory owners, Junkers, or militarists? Does not leaving the land of progress for the morass of an historically outdated social order demonstrate political backwardness and blindness? ...
Workers throughout Germany will demand punishment for those who today leave the German Democratic Republic, the strong bastion of the fight for peace, to serve the deadly enemy of the German people, the imperialists and militarists...'

Yet there are still other walls of division around us and elsewhere. There are still people intent on building them. They include the walls of established ways of thinking, walls of political hypocrisy, idéology, walls of prejudice, of racism, of religious extremism, of fear and hate. The walls that ensconce weakness. 
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Text  © Mirino (PW) November, 2009. Source Wikipedia. Satellite image with thanks to Nasa

The Glencoe massacre


   'Glencoe. A gloomy, eerie place, a valley of sorrow hewn out of mountains of guilt'.    

A convention is being organised of which the theme is Scotland. This has given me the pretext of finally ordering a kilt and sporran from the Highlands. 'Finally', because the idea has always appealed to me. Naturally the kilt would have to be the tartan of my mother's clan, and the motto stamped on the seal that embellishes the sporran is "Aonaibh ri chéile" which basically means "Unite".
Traditionally the clan Cameron defended King Robert the Bruce. They fought the 'lowlanders' at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. As they were also engaged in numerous clan battles during the 14th, 15th and 16 centuries it could be assumed that they were a fairly bellicose bunch.

During the civil war, the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645, the Camerons allied with the Macdonalds defeating the Covenanters of the clan Campbell, but one year later the Campbells had a serious conflict over land with the clan Lamont. The Lamont castles were taken (Toward and Ascog) and although Sir James Lamont surrendered accepting 'just terms' for the sake of his people, the Campbells subsequently massacred more than 200 of Lamont's followers including women and children. It is said that from a particular tree, 35 victims hung from its branches, and 36 men were buried alive near its roots. This was known as the Dunoon Massacre.

But the most notorious massacre, despite there being less victims, was of Glencoe which took place forty four years later.

With Viscount Dundee, the Camerons had formed a confederation loyal to James VII to counter the venue of William of Orange, then king of England. They were known as 'Jacobites'. A force of about 2,400 (among them 18 year old Rob Roy McGregor) positioned themselves on the heights of the Pass of Killicrankie waiting to attack the government army sent to contend with them. After firing off a few rounds from what muskets the Scots possessed, they charged, engaged in close quarter combat, and completed routed their adversaries- "swept away by the furious onset of the Camerons". This last but memorable Scottish victory is known as the 'Battle of Killiecrankie' (27th July, 1689).

Consequently the Scottish clan chiefs were each promised £12,000 to be administrated by the Earl of Breadalbane, on condition that they swear allegiance to King William. It was decreed that they must sign the oath before the 1st January, 1692. Those who failed to do so, preferring to continue the fight, would be ruthlessly hunted down. The chiefs all signed but they were never paid. The last of the clan chiefs to sign, five days late, was Alastair Maclain of Glencoe. This delay was allegedly due to his waiting for the approval of the disposed King James.

In view of the outcome of the Battle of Killiecrankie, the fact that John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane had a grudge against the Macdonalds, and that Sir John Dalrymple of Stair, joint Secretary of State, wanted to make a exemplary show of government muscle, they conspired a plot.

Although they knew that the Macdonalds had signed the oath, they pretended that this was not the case in order to procure the king's signature to punish the clan.
The Campbells were sent to Glencoe in February 1692 and, according to the usual custom, were graciously received by the Macdonalds. During the night of the 13th however, the Campbells arose and attacked their hosts killing 38 in their homes or as they tried to escape. Alastair Maclain was killed in his bedroom. Those who survived fled to the snow covered hills, where a further forty women and children died from exposure, their homes having been burnt down.

Two of the Campbell lieutenants refused to carry out the orders and even broke their swords to emphasise their revolt.

It was a despicable breach of the ancient law of Scottish hospitality, and as it was also authorised by a government claiming to be dedicated to justice, it has never ceased to be regarded as one of the most shameful episodes in Scottish history. The scandal was all the more accentuated by the fact that those responsible remained 'Scot free'. Thus an irreconcilable state of affairs continued to reign in Scotland.
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 Fascimili of Dalrymple's order to the Campbell forces.

'You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the M'Donalds, of Glencoe and putt all to the sword under seventy. You are to have special care that the old fox and his sons doe upon no account escape your hands. You are to secure all the avenues, that no man may escape.... This is by the King's special command, for the good of the country, that these miscreants be cutt off root and branch. See that this be putt in execution without feud or favour, else you may expect to be treated as not true to the king's government, nor a man fitt to carry a commission in the king's service. Expecting you will not faill in the fulfilling hereof as you love your selfe, I subscribe these with my hand. att Balicholis Feb: 12, 1692.'  

For their Majesties service                                                 
To Capt. Robert Campbell 
of Glenlyon                                                            (signed)  R. Duncanson                  
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Text and transposed image (Glencoe) © Mirino (PW). Sources- Scotland History of a Nation. Further information from Wikipedia. Phrase below image attributed to Geddes MacGregor. Facsimili with grateful thanks to Wikipedia. November, 2009

Identité


Eric Besson, ancien conseiller des Finances au près de Ségolène Royal, écrivain du livre 'Qui est Mme. Royal?', après que cette dernière ait posé publiquement la question dépréciative devant des ouvriers, 'Besson, vous le connaissez vous?', a justement suggéré récemment qu'il devrait y avoir un débat sur l'identité nationale.

Cette première petite 'polémique d'identité' a eu lieu après que Besson ait quitté le parti socialiste à cause d'une discorde concernant la gérance financière du parti. Ultérieurement il accepta le poste offert par François Fillon (et Nicolas Sarkozy) pour devenir ministre de l'Immigration, de l'Intégration, de l'Identité nationale et du Développement solidaire pour le gouvernement actuel (15 janvier, 2009).

Pour ce qui est de l'identité nationale, il ne serait pas seul à penser que la burqa, par exemple, ne correspond pas tout à fait avec l'identité française, ni Européenne.

Certains pourraient suggérer que ceci fasse partie du contrecoup du colonialisme européen. Il y a même d'autres qui croient que les européens doivent être condamnés éternellement pour le 'crime' de colonialisme du 19 ème siècle. J'en suis moins persuadé de la validité de cet argument. 

Si l'Europe a imposé aux colonies ses valeurs, sa culture et même parfois une certaine mesure de sa religion pendant cette époque 'd'expansionnisme', c'est possible qu'en termes de sciences, de technologie, d'ingénierie et d'éducation elle a donné beaucoup plus qu'elle n'en a jamais reçue. Le développement des pays concernés (négatif autant que positif) pourrait en être considéré comme preuve.
Il y a même eu des cas où le mariage entre les cultures (britanniques et indiennes, par exemple) semblait avoir fonctionné à tel point positif que l'aristocratie indienne non seulement acceptait 'l'éducation anglaise' pour leur enfants, éventuellement elle l'avait même exigée.

Considérons également les nombreuses réformes sociales et religieuses qu'Ataturk a établi en Turquie bien avant la deuxième guerre mondiale, en proclamant l'égalité des sexes, en donnant aux femmes le droit de vote et le droit d'être instruites, en prohibant le port du voile des femmes et du fez des hommes, en séparant la religion de la politique, et en remplaçant le code Coranique par le code civil suisse.
Pendant une partie de la même période en Afghanistan, (1919-1929) le roi Amanullah a essayé de  modernisé son pays radicalement en rétablissant des relations diplomatiques, en décrétant l'éducation pour les femmes et en rendant l'éducation générale obligatoire. Lui aussi avait interdit le port du voile des femmes et avait même introduit des écoles mixtes. C'est vrai que par la suite il devait se heurter à beaucoup d'opposition de l'intransigeance des autorités tribales et religieuses, mais cet instinct à moderniser existait bel et bien déjà il y a presque un siècle.

Sans vouloir donner l'impression de la moindre intolérance religieuse, il me semble néanmoins qu'il y ait une régression sociale dans certains pays musulmans due à la pression et à l'influence croissantes de l'extrémisme islamique pendant les trente-cinq derniers années.

L'extrémisme religieux ne devrait jamais être utilisé comme une référence pour valider les idées religieuses qu'il défend. Certains cependant considèrent qu'on doit retourner aux racines, afin de redécouvrir son identité religieuse. Dans ce cas, à partir de quelles racines essentielles faut-il commencer? La logique indiquerait avant la naissance même du Prophète, alors pourquoi pas avant l'ère des Bouddhas de Bâmiyân, ou peut-être avant la naissance d'Abraham, le père des trois religions monothéistes, ou avant la civilisation des Étrusques, ou celle interminable de l'Egypte antique, ou avant l'ère de la Vénus de Willedorf, ou même avant l'Âge de Pierre?.. Où se trouvent finalement les racines de cette identité, la verité religieuse, celle enfin de l'humanité?

Pour empêcher une religion de devenir un dogme impraticable, sans pourtant trahir sa vérité ou perdre sa beauté essentielles, ne devrait-elle pas être permise à évoluer positivement avec la civilisation? Ce processus n'a-t-il pas été toujours naturel et quasi imperceptible à travers l'histoire de la civilisation? Essayer de restreindre ce qui est naturel ne crée que le désordre, la régression, l'hypocrisie et le conflit. La chute de certaines civilisations anciennes en est aussi la preuve.
Nous avons eu, après tout, l'avantage des siècles d'évolution et d'éducation, des 'trials and errors' de l'humanité. Nous sommes parfaitement capables- et peut-être toujours davantage d'ailleurs- de discerner le bien du mal.

Si, par exemple, l'ensemble des musulmans est peu disposé à réfuter catégoriquement l'hypocrisie abominable et le mal odieux d'employer la technologie moderne pour tuer aveuglement au nom de l'Islam autant de personnes innocentes que possible, alors il doit y avoir un problème très sérieux d'identité culturelle, sociale et religieuse.

En tous cas peut-être Eric Besson a raison de croire qu'un débat sur l'identité nationale pourrait être utile. Il se peut quand même que le sujet soit plus profond et moins simple que l'on puisse d'abord croire. 
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La burqa (qui veux dire 'coudre ou replâtrer') a été portée longtemps avant l'Islam. Employée comme protection contre les tempêtes de sable, elle était également portée comme forme de dissuasion contre la possibilité de celles ainsi habillées- les femmes et les jeunes filles- d'être enlevées lorsque leur communauté était envahie par des assaillants. (La dissuasion ayant été l'impossibilité aux tels moments critiques de discerner une jeune femme d'une vieille).
Malgré la croyance de beaucoup de musulmans que le 'hadith' exige des hommes et des femmes un comportement modeste en public, (hijab) il n'y a aucune mention de la burqa dans le Coran.
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Text and image © Mirino (PW) October, 2009

Dēmokratía



Maybe it's unfashionable to believe that there's only one valid form of democracy. Today many people seem to be convinced that forms of democracy are determined by tradition, culture and religion (if not personal interest). Would this then explain why Russian democracy doesn't correspond with American democracy, and why Iranian democracy is a far more baffling version? It would appear that such 'degrees' of democracy are then inevitable.

In his interview with Le Figaro (7/9/2009) Hamid Karzai seemed to condone the massive election fraud of the last Afghan elections (August, 2009) on the grounds that the Afghan democracy was 'young'. In this case then, the principle of democracy must also depend on its age. Perhaps there's an adolescent democracy, a middle-aged democracy and a senile democracy. Democracy would thus seem to be determined by time, as though it had a maturity peak and a limited life span.

If this is so would it be really worth fighting for? If he who is supposed to be regarded as the elected President of Afghanistan, doesn't defend the basic principles of democracy right from the start, for what reason is Nato sacrificing the lives of young soldiers? What cause is the Afghan army defending? What principle of freedom and justice did the Afghan civilians risk life and limb voting for ?

Of course it's perfectly understandable that the security situation in Afghanistan doesn't easily permit the authorities to cancel fraudulent election results in favour of going through the difficult process again in a totally honest and correct way. But surely the principle should have been defended. Karzai had the opportunity to show the world that he was worthy of what the Afghans had been fighting for non stop since 1979.

If a coalition government was out of the question, could he not have promised new elections for 2010? In any case, never should he have accepted the election fraud, as he did according to the Figaro interview, as a quasi normality.

Yet strangely the eminent heads of Western democracies (including the new one who knowingly scrutinises the horizon, his brow furrowed from the heavy burden of 'I can take it' responsibility) seem to find this acceptable enough to continue sending more troops to defend the noble (or fraudulently ignoble) cause. And one also imagines poor Massoud turning in his grave.

(UN data shows that the official vote count of the last elections in Afghanistan exceeded the number of voters in some provinces by 100,000 or even more).
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Image with thanks to Google and rp-online. Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009

Nobellicose Prize



With the same logic, one wonders why the Nobel peace prize wasn't awarded to Neville Chamberlain for his foreign policy of appeasement as British Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940. Notably for his having obtained 'Peace in our Time' by signing the Munich agreement in 1938.

True that the 'time' became radically cut down to a year's grace, but maybe this would have been judged as better than nothing, and still time enough to have awarded him the Nobel appeasement prize.

That Russia and Cuba are the first to officially congratulate Obama is also a revealing factor.
All we need now are Iran, Syria, Libya, China and North Korea to join in the chorus to add to the hilarity.

Perhaps this would be the 'encouragement' Obama refers to, towards further international appeasement, compromise or cession..
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Image with thanks to Wikipedia. Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009

Une femme



Le sourire, la ferme, douce et savante touche de ses mains, la douceur de sa poitrine, les courbes parfaites de ses cuisses, la cambrure fascinante de son dos montant entre les subtils creux pelviens aux fesses magnifiques.
Ces moments magiques rehaussés par l'éclair dans ses yeux et son teint lumineux. Secret de la jeunesse éternelle. Une fleur en pleine floraison qui dure, et durera dans les œuvres innombrables des artistes et écrivains, éternellement.

Shakespeare immortalisa sa beauté dans ses sonnets, et Tennyson révéla son paradoxe de puissance et d'impuissance dans sa poésie.
Leonardo da Vinci saisit sa grace et son mystère pour l'éternité.
Sandro Botticelli rendit un hommage intemporel à sa délicatesse, son rayonnement éthéré et son galbe.
Hans Holbien éternisa son élégance et sa symétrique dans une richesse de couleurs fabuleuses.
Bernini sculpta le désir toujours actif qu'elle évoque, son impuissance, révolte tempérée avec la complaisance.
Vermeer dépeigna superbement son dévouement domestique admirable.
Fragonard peigna son innocence et sa patience.
Boucher présenta généreusement sa volupté, son invitation apparemment inconsciente et intemporelle.
Rossetti dépeigna sa spiritualité sensuelle.
Renoir mit en évidence son parfum naturel, sa douceur de son charme.
Et Klimt vêtit son intimité mais éternisa une sensualité glorieuse sinon éphémère.

Chaque âge a sa découverte spéciale. Les femmes semblent bien plus averties de la profondeur du changement qui les transforment de l'enfance à la femme que les hommes semblent, concernant la profondeur de leur propre transformation à l'âge de la puberté.
Pour une quantité étonnante d'entre nous, notre compréhension des femmes, sinon plus qu'une notion vague, est finalement atteinte à l'âge où nous sommes beaucoup moins capables de les satisfaire entièrement. La Nature ou Dieu semblerait avoir un sens de l'humour cruel, ou un sens de justice poétique. Mais certains hommes peuvent vivre une vie entière complètement inconsciente de la vraie nature et des désirs des femmes.

Elle a toujours été la source de l'inspiration des artistes et des auteurs dans toute l'histoire de la civilisation, et encore plus tôt (Vénus de Willendorf, 24.000 BC - 22.000 BC). Ils lui ont toujours rendue le plus grand hommage et respect, et pour cause.
Une femme est de plusieurs manières puissante, et peut-être pour cette raison elle n'a jamais eu besoin d'être une Déesse déléguée. Comme elle produit la vie, avec le petit goût d'aide masculine nécessaire, n'est-elle pas déjà une Déesse?
Malgré les toutes premières reconnaissances, pour compenser notre manque relatif de potentiel, une ignorance à leur égard, et ce qui pourrait également être une jalousie inhérente depuis la nuit des temps, nous avons ainsi limité la délégation des Dieux et des Prophètes uniquement aux hommes.

Les vieilles habitudes meurent difficilement, particulièrement quand elles sont décrétées par le dogme et la religion. Pourtant l'éducation, l'appréciation et la sensibilité ont toujours eu un effet positif pour corriger quelque peu la tendance. Mais c'est certain que davantage de temps est toujours nécessaire.

Peut-être c'est une erreur de croire que la beauté d'une vraie femme est la victime du temps. La vie en est la victime, mais pas l'essence de la beauté. Chaque moment et chaque âge de la vie d'une femme est particulier, comme une rose de longue floraison qui maintient toujours l'essence de son parfum individuel, et de son rayonnement de jadis, jusqu'à la chute du dernier pétale.
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Text and image- 'Gaea' (la terre) from 'The Elements' © Mirino (PW) October, 2009

Antithetics

 

What has been disturbingly revealing in trying to exchange opinions with other Europeans via the Web during the last three or four years, is the surprising amount of unabashed prejudice and anti-Occidentalism, which seems to boil down to a general distrust in democracy.
This is apparent in the systematic refusal to acknowledge historic facts, and a unilateral presentation of international events, always supported by precisely narrated, one-sided stories.

Israeli soldiers are thus presented as cruel, racist, robotic monsters, as bad, if not even worse, than the Nazis ever were.
Afghanistan would be invaded by Western imperialists (as was Iraq) for 'multinational interests'. Whoever is elected there, in whatever way, whether it be Karzaï or Abdullah, would far more likely be an American stooge than an elected representative of the Afghanis. Naturally the same applies, in this blurred vision, to the Iraqi government.

Secretly one might admire Osama bin Laden, tacitly approve of al-Qaida, and more openly, of the Taliban 'defenders of Afghanistan'. (Massoud would be a myth or a 'has been'). Hamas, of course, would represent the brave defenders of Palestinian freedom, and the Hezbollah would be the only legitimate organisation that carries the noble and weighty responsibility of the defence of Lebanon. The majority of poor prisoners remaining in Guantanamo detention camp would be misguided martyrs brutalised by the CIA, the same independant US agency that would also have been responsible for organising the 11th September attacks.

One can try to present other, more coherent view points, producing the clearest evidence of premeditated horrors and alluding to pertaining historic facts. One constantly repeats oneself, naively imagining that no one can deny what is so blatantly obvious, but all to no avail.
Nobody will prove you wrong, yet you will never be accorded even an arguable point. You will never be able to breach the thick wall of prejudice, hate, distrust and negation.

There is, or was, the constantly used expression exporting democracy, as though it were Coca Cola. As though entire nations of people are too backward to know what they are actually doing, or have never enjoyed any relative freedom before. As though democracy can be imposed like Soviet Communism, or tyrannical totalitarianism.

George W. Bush has been the overused scapegoat, ever since the back lash of al-Qaida and the insurgent henchmen after the first elections in Iraq. No one else in the myopic eyes of his critics can more fully represent 'evil'. In comparison, according to such obscured vision, Saddam Hussein would have been a poor, misunderstood martyr.

And perhaps for them, even Ahmadinejad has a point. If the Holocaust was, as the Iranian President informs the world, just a myth, it would be difficult to find someone more suitable who could incarnate an even worse Hitler, capable of making the 'myth' an even worse reality. We hear 'the Supreme Guide' Ali Khamenei of Iran subtly affirming, that the 'destructive, cancerous Zionism' is nibbling away at the 'Muslim world' which, comparing land masses between Israel and the surrounding Muslim nations is another ridiculously distorted and incredibly magnified observation that, although hateful, can hardly otherwise be taken very seriously.

But the world is blest with extremists everywhere. Even in our democracies. And Israel, of course, is a real democracy. But the difference between Israeli extremists and Palestinian extremists is that the latter are generally more idealised than criticised by the Palestinians, whereas the former are generally more criticised than idealised by the Israelis.
The former, in fact, are criticised by the whole world, whereas the latter seem to be regarded, even by the U.N., as an 'inexorable fatality'. The tacitly agreed price the Israelis should pay for the privilege of living in Israel, is to tolerate terrorists as their next door neighbours on an indefinite basis. Maybe it's also the price the United Nations 'indirectly impose' on the Israelis for the UNs' having failed in establishing the 1947 Israeli-Palestinian agreements. But if this is so, they too, like so many others suffering from blurred vision, are 'antithetically' off target, for the categorical refusal of the agreements came from the Arab League and never from the Israelis.
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Text and Images © Mirino (PW) September, 2009

The fragility of freedom



Democracy seems to over step its own generosity when those who have benefited from its freedom for perhaps too long, criticise it expressing distrust and even aversion. Such critics could never have experienced repression.

11th September, 2001. The eighth commemoration. Yet we still hear the incredible complot theories. Despite the deaths, despite the incoherence of such a mad and insensitive hypothesis. Among the thousands who worked in the Twin Towers there were over 87 nationalities probably representing all existing religions.
Monuments of democracy. The ideal target for the mad who consider freedom to be a threat to their senseless cause.

Why ever would the U.S administration stab itself in the heart so brutally to gain a totally unnecessary pretext, first to liberate Afghanistan from tyrannical, Islamic fundamentalists? If anything the West had already left this far too late. Had they responded when Commander Massoud, then the Defence Minister of Afghanistan, asked for European help, explaining the danger and his conviction that the fight against the Taliban was not a national confrontation, it was part of an international war, a monstrously deformed jihad, perhaps history would have been vastly different.

The consequences of such inertia...

If Nato had helped Massoud and his moudjahidin to prevent the Taliban from seizing Kabul and total control of Afghanistan, thus depriving them of their first major victory, they would probably have been discouraged, disarmed and disbanded. This, also when most of the afghan population was still united against them.
By virtually allowing them their first, real success, they were ready to take on the entire world, starting with the World Trade Centre itself.

They knew Massoud had been to Europe to try to persuade the authorities of the necessity to help the Afghans. This was also why he was assassinated at that time, two days before the Twin Towers were hit.

Massoud was a much loved and respected Afghan leader, for good reasons. Had the West (Europe) heeded his call, maybe he would still be alive today to help realise his dream for Afghanistan. Maybe the World Trade Centre would still grace New York and the thousands of various nationalities would still be employed there. The Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan's fabulous 6th century historical monuments, the largest of their kind in the world, would still be intact.
And despite whatever sentiments his father may have had by allowing Saddam Hussein to continue his murderous reign after the Kuwaiti war, perhaps George W. Bush would never have felt the urgent need, rightly or wrongly, to 'liberate' Iraq.

The vicious and odious post election backlash in both countries by Islamic extremists bent on indiscriminately punishing the civilians for choosing democracy, is also part of the tidal wave provoked by the Taliban's 'success' in Afghanistan, and the subsequent 'successes' of al-Qaida elsewhere. The enemy is the same, and so is the war.

It's a war to defend democracy. Because when democracy is in danger anywhere, in principle it's in danger everywhere.

Naturally its defence must also be engaged by those who claim to be democratically elected. They too must ensure that the principles which their people and others are defending at such great cost, are also fully adhered to and respected administratively, without any toleration of doubt.

Regardless of all sentiment however, regardless of political and religious considerations, perhaps it's best to treat history, the infinite, intricate web of circumstances, of causes and effects, with philosophy. For it constantly underlines that however gloriously positive or tragically negative the consequences, there's always a reason for everything.
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Text © Mirino (PW). Image with thanks to Google. September, 2009

Gatsby




Ce n'est qu'une autre petite histoire bête de village. Mais une histoire qui encore illustre tout de même que posséder n'est qu'une vieille illusion. On ne possède jamais rien dans le vrai sens du mot, et encore moins concernant la vie elle-même.

D'abord Gatsby s'accrochait pour des heures à notre fenêtre fermée qui donne sur le toit du voisin. Ce fut presque la fin d'un long hiver. Le chat était alors maigre comme un clou et manifestement bien malade. Ayant déjà un petit chien, on n'avait pas eu l'intention de 'l'adopter', mais on n'avait pas pu non plus le laisser comme ça.

Une fois je l'ai vu en train de gratter à la porte des voisins en bas. Lorsque j'ai eu l'occasion de parler au monsieur qui y habite, je lui ai demandé si le chat gris argenté était à eux. Il m'a répondu que non. J'ai dit qu'il avait l'air abandonné. Le voisin murmurait quelque chose en guise de réponse mais je ne l'ai pas saisi.

Alors nous avons décidé de nous occuper de Gatsby. On l'a fait examiner par un vétérinaire qui l'a vacciné, etc. Il grossissait, il devenait beau comme il devrait être.

Une fois on a même acheté un petit collier rouge pour lui. Ce même jour quand il est rentré plus tard il n'y avait plus de collier. Pensant qu'il y avait une faible possibilité que le chat a pu l'enlever lui-même, on a donc acheté un autre, identique au précèdent. Le même jour après l'avoir remis, 'Gatsby' est rentré encore sans son collier..

Alors cette fois j'ai été contrarié, et sans me freiner- car nous avions déjà eu nos soupçons à propos de la petite fille des voisins- je suis descendu pour aller chez eux et là sur le pas de la porte et sans préambule j'ai demandé directement s'ils ont enlevé le collier du chat.
La réponse, curieusement sans hésitation, ni surprise, ni interrogation, était 'non'. J'ai fait aussitôt mes excuses pour les avoir dérangés, et on a laissé les choses comme ça.

Mais dans un village même les enfants en parlent, et nous avions donc appris que nos soupçons étaient quand même bien fondés.
La vérité c'est que malgré tout et sans grand engagement de leur part, nos voisins revendiquaient le chat.

L'été arrive, nous partons en vacances. La voisine, une autre, elle aussi entourée de chats, va s'occuper de Gatsby. Nous allons laisser une fenêtre ouverte pour lui permettre de continuer à rentrer 'chez lui'.
Lorsqu'on retourne, Gatsby nous attend toujours. Il est un peu vexé. C'est normal, il s'agit d'un chat de classe. Mais il est aussi blessé. Une vilaine morsure du chat derrière l'oreille droite, sur-infectée et gros comme une balle de golf.

Nous savions que les voisins revendicateurs accueillaient toujours le chat, et comme Gatsby devait aller au vétérinaire pour sa deuxième vaccination, je leur ai laissé un petit mot- car comme il fallait l'amener tôt le surlendemain, nous ne voulions pas être contraints de réveiller nos voisins dans le cas où le chat n'est pas 'trouvable'. J'ai expliqué aussi qu'il faut traiter cette mauvaise blessure. Je les ai invité même à venir en parler s'ils voulaient.

La matin avant d'aller au vétérinaire la mère de la petite fille revendicatrice sortait de chez elle en même temps que nous descendions la ruelle. Manifestement elle voulait nous parler. Selon elle, il n'y avait pas de problème ni de malentendu, elle avait l'intention de s'occuper de la blessure du chat, et mine de rien elle interrogeait notre initiative ou notre droit, mais ceci sans trop insister quand même.

Le vétérinaire ne pouvait pas donner à Gatsby sa deuxième vaccination à cause de l'infection de la blessure. Le chat avait une forte fièvre. Il lui donne des antibiotiques et nous sommes obligés de le ramener une autre fois. Ce que l'on a fait et cette fois pour en finir le traitement avec un tatouage pour (dans nos esprits) balayer tous les vestiges poussiéreux de 'malentendus inexistants'.

Depuis Gatsby ne bouge pas trop de 'chez lui'. Il aime d'ailleurs dormir dans un sac de Levi Strauss & Co, en papier renforcé où il pète de temps en temps sans trop de considération pour le bien être de son entourage. Il a aussi développé l'habitude de nous réveiller sans façons à quatre heures du matin lorsqu'il a un petit creux.
Mais il ne s'entend aucunement avec le chat noir des voisins, avec lesquels, c'est quasi entendu, qu'il n'y a pas le moindre malentendu..


Morale de l'histoire:

Ce n'est pas essentiellement la responsabilité que l'on prend lorsqu'on 'adopte un animal abandonné', ni les considérations de combien on dépense pour pouvoir l'assumer. 'Le droit d'adopter' n'est pas nécessairement mesuré par l'attention et l'amour donnés. Ce n'est pas un collier rouge ni même un tatouage qui compte. Ce n'est pas non plus le choix ou la volonté des uns et des autres qui représentent les facteurs déterminants.

Ce qui est primordial c'est simplement le choix du premier concerné. En réalité ce n'est pas nous qui avons adopté 'Gatsby'. C'est lui qui nous a adoptés.
C'est uniquement ceci qui compte, qui est incontestable et qui devrait être toujours respecté.
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Text and Images © Mirino (PW) September, 2009

Nicoletta


Sunday midday, 12th July, 2009. The first day after our arrival in Tuscany.

We drove to a nearby village in the hope of finding a bakery. Finding nothing, at one point I got out of the car to try to ask the first person I met if he knew of any bakery still open. The big man immediately got up from where he was seated in the shade and invited me to follow him. We walked into a small street where there was indeed a bakery, but it too was closed. He then suggested that we wait in our car for him to come in his and then we should follow him. He would drive to his home nearby to give us the bread we needed. So this we did.

We soon arrived at a large house with big automatic wrought iron gates, a fair sized garden and two dogs.
The man gave us the bread but emphatically refused any payment for it. His wife then showed us some of the work of their artist daughter Nicoletta, after we had expressed admiration of a painting displayed in the lounge next to the kitchen. It was all very impressive.


We were graciously offered an aperitif and then even invited to lunch, our host honouring us further by de-corking one of his best wines. It was as if we were old friends or members of the family.

What a marvellously moving example of 'ospitalità e generosità toscane' to greet us on our first day in Italy!

Nicoletta's parents are naturally concerned for her regarding her vocation, but it is obvious that she is already an accomplished artist. Although age should never be regarded as a criterion where art is concerned, one can't help being all the more impressed when the creator of such work is only twenty two years old. One naturally assumes that in a few more years she will be producing chef d'oeuvres that will reflect even more this inherent confidence and generosity.


Such a random meeting, such spontaneous trust and goodness can only reinforce the conviction that there is no such thing as 'hazard'. It would thus be an honour to to do what one can to try help the artist, assuming Nicoletta agrees.


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Text © Mirino (PW). Paintings © Nicoletta Bicocchi. August, 2009

Concessions

 

















 How can British law, with the centuries of history (and decreasing religious influence) it took to effectively establish it since the signing of the Magna Carta, be considered compatible with Sharia law?
In principle Sharia law hasn't essentially changed since 650 AD, 565 years before King John reluctantly signed the famous document the 10th June, 1215, and this was only one of the many paving stones of historical events leading to the modern, democratic and constitutional law of England.

Even earlier, in the twelth century, brutal sentences of the Sharia including the severing of limbs and death by stoning were often waved by more indulgent (and less barbaric) Muslim authorities of Persia.

Yet with the incredible support of the seemingly unenlightened Archbishop of Canterbury and the Supreme Judicial Authorities of England, the application of the Sharia as a parallel institution of law has been authorised in Great Britain, supposedly for the sake of multicultural integration (if not for other, even less valid reasons).

Apparently, amazingly, in 'England's green and pleasant land' there are already more than eighty Sharia courts in operation.

This concession seems all the more incredible in view of how incompatible Sharia law is, not only with the laws and values of England, but with the principles of democracy itself. And there is no way Islamic laws can be 'updated' or 'democratised' to adapt them more appropriately to civilisation, certainly of this century, at least not without Islamic purists condemning any such efforts as contrary to the teachings of the Prophet, therefore as 'blasphemous corruption'.

When, for example, a pardon or condemnation could be tacitly purchased, or the former be irresponsibly granted without conditions, or vindictively refused by the family of a victim- as was the case with the young Iranian artist, Delera Darabi, sentenced to death for a crime she had never committed and was never really tried for- where is there justice and democracy?
Had this case been tried in an English court of law, there is no doubt that Delera would be alive and free today, so how can Sharia law ever be considered legally adaptable as a parallel institution to that of English law? It's totally incoherent.

One wonders if the legal authorities of Great Britain ever took time out to fully inform themselves of what Sharia law consists of. This applies equally to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Shouldn't he be more supportive towards the principles of the religion he's supposed to represent, and less concerned by pre-medieval Islamic laws that seem more prone to advocate intolerance?

Such incoherence seems even more absurdly incongruous considering that Nato is defending a threatened democracy in Afghanistan from fundamentalists whose main objectives include imposing Sharia law. Whilst young soldiers are thus risking life and limb doing their utmost to defend the back door of democracy elsewhere, the British legal authorities seem to have nothing better to do than casually open the front door granting access to the same fundamentalism in the heart of England!

It would be very naive and condescending to believe it possible to grant 'a certain measure' of Sharia law. Muslims are not supposed to reason in 'certain measures'. And Sharia law is only one aspect of Islam which is essentially a way of life. As such it could also be regarded a Moslem duty to impose it wherever and whenever possible.

Naturally the Supreme Court of England would never be allowed to impose English law in Saudi Arabia or Iran, etc. for the benefit of ex.-pats working there, so why should the application of Sharia law be permitted for the benefit (or non benefit) of Muslims (if not non Muslims) who have chosen to live in Great Britain?

It follows that if one opts to live in a European country, one also wishes to adopt European values and to live according to European law. Indeed many moderate Muslims may have made such an initial commitment to escape from the rigours of what seems to be a general, international increment in Islamic fundamentalism.
If this wasn't the case surely one would prefer to continue to live in his or her native homeland. This, unless an underlying objective, determined by such radicalism, is to use the flaws of democracy itself, including it's essential multicultural freedom and 'majority rule' to gradually impose Islamic fundamentalism throughout Europe, to the total detriment of Europeans, European culture and European democracy.

If it's not already 'too late' to prohibit the application of Sharia law in Great Britain, and to encourage Muslims who wish to live according to Islamic law and Islamic values to return to where these are naturally more fully adhered to and respected, then it would seem primordial to do so without delay.

It could otherwise be that certain eminent, Right Honourable, robed, wigged, absent-minded and short-sighted lords of British justice have inadvertently lit the fuse to an Islamic time bomb destined to be more explosive than anything since the signing of the Magna Carta.
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Text and Illustrations © Mirino (PW) August, 2009