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...

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.
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. 
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.

 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                  
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