Archive for November, 2011

Il Decameron

November 30, 2011
A Tale from the Decameron - John William Waterhouse

A Tale from the Decameron - John William Waterhouse

Il Decameron is a collection of allegorical tales by Giovanni Boccaccio. He is thought to have begun the work in 1350, and finished it in 1351 or 1353.

A collection of bawdy tales featuring noblemen and ladies, nuns and peasants. A 14th-century medieval allegory of 100 tales told by ten young people each telling ten tales each. They tell their tales over a period of ten days.

The setting is Italy at the time of the Black Death. A group of seven young women and three young men flee from plague-ridden Florence to a villa, where no one lives, in the countryside of Fiesole for two weeks. To pass the evenings, every member of the party tells a story each night for ten days, except for one day per week for chores, and the holy days in which they do no work at all. Thus, by the end of the fortnight they have told 100 stories.

One such tale is of nuns in a covent, pius nuns, each being serviced by their gardener.

The story telling is very much like the story telling we have in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, a series of bawdy tales told by pilgims on their way to Canterbury.

Il Decameron is also a an Italian film by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, the first in a trilogy which he called Trilogy of life, the others being The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights.

N30 Day of mass protest against ConDem government

November 30, 2011
Letter being distributed by the Metropolitan Police today

Letter being distributed by the Metropolitan Police today

OccupyLSX tower banners

OccupyLSX tower banners

OccupyLSX march departs towards Central London from St Paul's

OccupyLSX march departs towards Central London from St Paul's

All Power to the 99% Occupy

All Power to the 99% Occupy

Power to the 99% banner drop Panton House

Power to the 99% banner drop Panton House

protesters being kettled on Panton Street

protesters being kettled on Panton Street

Hectic times on Panton Street

Hectic times on Panton Street

evening kettle still in place Leicester Square

evening kettle still in place Leicester Square

a damp squib?

a damp squib?

Message from OccupyLondon legal observers: there is no obligation to give out your name and address to police if stopped and searched. — OccupyLSX

Just about to join those on strike in their march through Brighton today for a fairer society and fair pensions for all. — Caroline Lucas MP

Potential arrestee advice. Ask for pace code of practice, paper, pen. stay calm and focused. Remember no comment until custody sergeant. — OccupyLSX

Last week we had histrionic reporting by the BBC, the end of the world was nigh.

Bailout the people, not the banks!

Lunchtime today the BBC reported a damp squib. Few Job Centres were closed (though no mention many on short-term contracts risk losing their jobs), many schools open. And what of the chaos at Heathrow, long queues, passengers held on aircraft for twelve hours? Apperently no noticable difference from any other day.

BBC reporting has become so bad they are being reduced to a laughing stock.

The Daily Mail is beyond a joke. It was forced to delete its on-line poll when it showed 84% support for the strike!

George Osborne had guaranteed a mass turnout with his Autumn Statement yesterday.

George Osborne screws the environment and pisses on the poor
Stage set for austerity with no end in sight

The day started with a banner drop by OccupyLSX at Liverpool Street Station and the Met Police engaging in their usual intimidation, a letter was distributed and Section 60 areas declared.

One of the Section 60 areas where police can stop and search was outside the Bank of Ideas. It was seen for what it was, intelligence gathering and intimidation.

Section 60 is applied “where there is a possibility of serious violence”. How was this applicable outside the Bank of Ideas?

Met Police – What is Stop and Search?

OccupyLSX offered a tour of interesting places.

Shame on those Labour MPs who unlike their Welsh and Scottish colleagues crossed the picket lines.

For the spinless Ed Miliband it was more important to cross the picket lines to engage in childish public schoolboy exhanges (about all he is capable of) than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those on the streets.

Think what a message it would have sent if the Opposition Benches in the Commons today were empty?

Caroline Lucas showed the way. She joined a march in Brighton calling for fair pensions and a fairer society. Something we can all sign up to.

Mid-afternoon OccupyLSX took direct action against mining company Xstrata, a ‘leading light’ of the FTSE 100 and British industry to highlight the fact that CEO Mick Davies was the highest compensated CEO of all the FTSE 100 companies in the last year, when his companies had losses and the economy collapsed. He received £18,426,105 for his efforts. Led by a samba band from Piccadilly Circus around 60 protesters managed to gain access to the offices at 25-7 Haymarket off Piccadilly Circus. A banner saying “All power to the 99%” from the roof top.

Occupy London targets UK’s highest paid FTSE CEO
“Occupy” protesters break into London office
Building housing Britain’s highest paid CEO is raided
Public sector strikes: Occupy storms Haymarket office as PM taunts unions

Michael Gove has been highly critical of the public sector strikes (though he does recognise the right to strike). His private office is funded by Mick Davies!

The Territorial Support Group (thugs in police uniform who should have been disbanded years ago) could not resist beating up a few protesters. Those held in a kettle found there were more undercover cops than peaceful protesters and it was the undercover cops causing the Breach of the Peace.

Faced with violent rioters in the summer, the police ran away and let business burn to the ground. Faced with peaceful protesters the police go in heavy-handed.

This evening bakers arrived for a dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane for the bankers awards. Is there one for the greediest bastard?

Top story in The Protest Report (Wednesday 30 November 2011).

#N30Strike #OccupyN30 – as it happens
York strikes receive boost from Solidaritea volunteers
Unions hail public sector strike
Unions claim strikes well supported
LIVE: Over 2 million public sector workers expected to strike in biggest action seen for a generation
Is it time to occupy the highways?
A New Winter of Discontent: Massive Strikes in UK Protest Government Austerity
Occupy: we are the world

The Real George Osborne (1 of 3)

November 30, 2011
The Real George Osborne

The Real George Osborne

He looks permanently pink and facetious, as though life is one big public-school prank. — former Labour MP Chris Mullin

We hope that this campaign, with genuinely funny content and such an exciting star at its centre, will bring this important issue to people in a way that is compelling and interesting. — Deborah Doane, director of the World Development Movement

The Real George Osborne, a paraody by WDM, but with a serious message, food speculation is killing the poor.

So what is the Real George Osborne all about?

Meet George, a bumbling Chancellor who struggles with street-dance lessons and diets in a doomed bid to be more popular than London Mayor Boris.

The Real George Osborne (2 of 3)
The real George Osborne? Surreal mockumentary shows bumbling Chancellor playing with toy train and taking street dance class
Surreality TV: the secret other life of George Osborne
New web comedy mocks Chancellor George Osborne
The real George Osborne
Osborne’s backwards budget is formula for failure on green economy and jobs

George Osborne screws the environment and pisses on the poor

November 29, 2011
Bankers4boris at parliament

Bankers4boris at parliament

“If you think the cuts are spiffing and the rich should make a killing, if you think the cuts are spiffing- clap your hands!” Love Osborne! — Bankers4Boris

More roads, airports, less Green protection, bail-outs for some of most polluting industries … lucky climate change isn’t a problem. — Caroline Lucas MP

Just asked Chancellor why he’s taking £250m from hard pressed families and giving it to some of country’s most polluting industries … — Caroline Lucas MP

“We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills” says Osborne as he gives taxpayer’s money to our biggest polluters. — Climate Rush

It’s ‘goodbye green growth and countryside protection’ and ‘hello and here’s some taxpayer money for you’ to biggest polluters. — Joss Garman

Just sinking in that coalition just ripped up their flagship opposition to airport expansion in South East. Broken promises again. — Joss Garman

It’s official: the government’s ambition to be the greenest ever is dead, choked by the exhaust fumes and chimneystack smog belched out in the desperate attempt to restart the economy’s engine. — Damian Carrington

Not content with screwing the poor, George Osborne is now screwing the environment too.

The poor have been hit very hard, as have the disabled and the elderly by the ConDem government since coming into office.

We are all in it together. There is no money for the poor and they have to suffer like everyone else.

No money for ther poor, but billions to give away to the banks.

Bailout the people, not the banks!

Massive budget deficit, or so we are told as the excuse for shock doctrine, but no attempt to recoup the money lost to tax dodgers like Vodafone and Goldman Sachs and Sir Phillip Green.

Now we are told, no money for the poor, but money to bailout polluting industries, money for a new wave of road building schemes.

The ConDem government recently scapped the money for solar energy claiming it was not affordable, even though it was chicken feed, even though consultation had not yet ended, and yet can find even more money for carbon-intensive, polluting industries.

There will be below-inflation increases in some working tax credits (ie poor working families hit), but other credits will rise in line with inflation.

The planned 3p rise in fuel duty in January is cancelled. Gas-guzzling cars driven by the rich to be susbsidised by cuts elsewhere. We all pay through air pollution and CO2 emissions.

Climate Rush Soho roadblock

By the Treasury’s own analysis, today’s measures will mean an increase in the number of children living in poverty of 100,000 by 2012/13.

Special pleading from aviation industry to scrap Airport Passenger Duty has been ignored. It should have been scrapped to be replaced by a tax on flights not passengers which is simply passed on to passengers. It is obscene that flights from Farnborough Airport with an average passenger load of 2.5 passengers are not paying the true cost of the flights.

Real household income looks set to fall by 2.3% this year – a post-war record. We are all in it together?

About the only good news is that the planned massive above-the-rate-of-inflation hike in rail fares planned for January will not go ahead. Why? Well that would have hit the City-types commuting into the City.

Fares fair rail fares protest

The January increase in rail fares will be capped at 6%, which is still 1% above inflation.

The youth employment scheme is simply a rehash of the widely discredited YTS, Youth Training Scheme, of the 1980s. All it does is supply cheap labour to business.

Last year the ConDem government scrapped EMA (a lifeline for poor families) and tripled student fees.

Well, if nothing else, George Osborne has guaranteed massive anti-government protests for 30 November!

The Real George Osborne
Osborne’s backwards budget is formula for failure on green economy and jobs
George Osborne’s false economy is the death of ‘greenest government ever’
George Osborne’s Autumn Statement
Economy – The day the hole we are in gets bigger

Christianity A History: Reformation

November 29, 2011
antichrist and the devil - detail from  Deeds of the Antichrist

antichrist and the devil - detail from Deeds of the Antichrist

Luther Bible

Luther Bible

For a thousand years there was only one Christianity in Western Europe, Roman Christianity. It tolerated no rivals as the Cathars learnt. Heretics were burnt at the stake.

The Reformation hit the church like an earthquake.

A humble monk Martin Luther nailed his demands to the church door. Those hammer blows still reverberate around Christendom.

The demands of Martin Luther were simple. An end to corruption by the clergy. An end to indulgences, the veneration of bones and other relics. Salvation was to be sought through direct communication with God, it was the Scriptures that should take precedence over the words of priests. The Scriptures to be in the vernacular, not requiring the interpretation of priests.

The Pope damned Martin Luther as a heretic and demanded that he be burnt at the stake. Martin Luther in turn called the Pope the antichrist, the only leader of the church was Jesus.

Luther saw himself as a prophet at the End of Days fighting the antichrist.

Under the sentence of death, Luther fled into exile. In exile he translated the Latin Bible into German.

The revolution that Martin Luther instigated coincided with the printing press. It was no coincidence that one of the first books to roll off the Gutenburg press was the Bible in German, though that was a commercial rather than religious decision.

Europe was torn apart in religious wars. It seemed that the End of Days had indeed arrived.

England never had a religious Reformation, which is why it is still ongoing unfinished business.

The Reformation in England was political. Henry VIII wanted a divorce and he wanted church property to finance foreign wars. Prior to the split with Rome, Henry VIII had followers of Martin Luther hunted down and killed and German Luther Bibles destroyed.

At the time of Henry VIII, the monasteries owned 2 million acres of prime land, a sixth of the land in England. They were incredibly rich. They housed vast libraries, they were centres of learning and education, helped the poor, were local employers. As self-declared Head of the church, all this wealth now belonged to Henry VIII.

The most wicked act of Henry VIII was the destruction of the monasteries.

An afternoon walk along the River Wey to Waverley Abbey

The Abbot of Glastonbury who spoke out against the looting and destruction of the Abbey was executed under false charges.

Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward, a devout Protestant, who in turn was succeeded by his sister Mary, a devout Catholic. Both waged religious wars on their own people. Your faith was decreed by your King or Queen, the people had no say in what they believed. To challenge the ruler in belief was to risk execution.

A far cry from what Martin Luther believed that the people should be free to choose.

In France, thousands of Protestants were slaughtered by their Catholic neighbours. The Pope had a special medal struck to celebrate a glorious Catholic victory.

In England, Elizabeth I banned Catholicism. Catholics were banned from celebrating Mass, priests were outlawed. It was illegal to be a practicing Roman Catholic and would remain so for 200 years. Priests practiced at risk to their lives.

catholics were forced underground. Services were held in houses, not churches. Houses had priest holes, a secret room within a house where a priest could hide with his symbols of office should the house be raided.

Archbishop George Abbot had his own network of spies and informers. Catholics were rooted out and executed.

To this day the British Monarch can be neither a Catholic nor married to a Catholic. The British Monarch is Head of the Church, Defender of the Faith.

In Amsterdam, under the eyes of their Protestant neighbours, the lovely Church in the Attic, a Roman Catholic church.

Today in Northern Ireland, Liverpool and Glasgow, sectarianism still exists. Both sides in Northern Ireland speak of ill deeds done by the other as though yesterday but which took place centuries ago. Secatarian marches still take place.

A central tenet of Christianity has been love thy neighbour. For most of its history it has been denounce and slaughter thy neighbour.

For the last 100 years the Catholic and Anglican churches have been in discussion about a possible merger, though in reality a takeover by the Catholic Church. Discussions that the laity are blissfully unaware of. Discussions that apart from a few documents and points of agreement have got nowhere and are unlikely to get anywhere. The supremacy of the Pope would never be accepted by Anglicans nor the relegation of women to second class citizens.

Bishop Christopher on closer Anglican ties with Catholic Church

To placate the Catholics, ordination of women as bishops has been put on indefinite hold. Anglicans in US have been all but excommunicated for their embracing of homosexuals

People are free to choose what church they go to or to go to no church at all. There are churches of various flavours, Anglican churches which are Catholic in all but name.

Maybe the church of the future is that of St George, an Anglican church in Baghdad, where all are welcome.

The followers of Jesus, a Jewish sect that morphed into Christianity was inclusive not exclusive, it welcomed Jews and Gentiles, women and children, sinners, everyone.

To heaven with Scribes and Pharisees

The story of Palestine

November 29, 2011
free Palestine

free Palestine

People under colonial and alien domination are recognised as being entitled to the right of self-determination and to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal. — UN Resolution 2649

When the United Nations, in 1977, proclaimed 29 November of each year as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, it was a clear admission of guilt towards this people. It was recognition that the Palestinian people deserve international solidarity and support, in the name of justice and rights. This was merely one small event in a long story.

The story of Palestine and its people is one that will go down in history. In fact it has already started to do just that. One might say that the victor is the one that writes history. The victor in this case will inevitably be justice, and justice is at the core of the Palestinian struggle against apartheid, colonialism and oppression. And as in every episode in history, everyone will be mentioned according to their positions, and more importantly their deeds with respect to each story.

In this day of solidarity, let us remember that.

Israeli Apartheid by Ben White
Israeli Apartheid – A talk by Ben White

The Odd Man at the Dinner Party

November 28, 2011

When I first began attending Quaker meeting 16 years ago, I quickly noticed a notable absence. Sunday after Sunday would pass (or First Day after First Day, as the Quakers insisted on calling it) without a mention of Jesus. I mean, Quakers were Christians, weren’t they? It was as if he had dropped down a rabbit hole somewhere in the Quaker past to be replaced by – well, nothing. There was no central figure, no icon, no rallying point. I brought the subject up with the folks that I figured were the “weighty Friends” and received a set of thoroughly unsatisfactory answers, all equally vague and non-committal: “teacher,” “model,” “significant religious figure,” or (my favorite) “metaphor.” No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t flush out anyone who would give the stock answer: “Divine Son of God who was born to a virgin and died on the cross to atone for my sins and then was resurrected from the dead to sit on the right hand of God until such time as he returns to judge the quick and the dead.” I mean, that’s the right answer, isn’t it? The one that, at the very least, would get you a gold star from the sweet Sunday School teacher – or, more to the point, save you from a miserable fiery eternity if you would just sign on to this version of the Christ story. Eternal damnation, fire and brimstone, or its alternative, wafting around forever on a cloud sporting a pair of wings and plucking a harp didn’t appear to be part of the Quaker way.

Frankly, this was a big relief, but I remained disconcerted by the generally Quakerly discomfort with Jesus to whom I took to referring as “the odd man at the Quaker dinner party.” He was there if you looked for him, sitting at the far end of the table, sort of awkwardly squeezed in. Most of the other guests were happy to make small talk with him, but no one really wanted to engage with him in any serious way, particularly since some of the guests were determined to ignore him altogether. Poor Jesus. “I’ll talk to you,” I would squeak inwardly. “I still care.”

Of course, I came to Quakerism fairly unmolested spiritually. Unlike many people who cross the Meetinghouse threshold, I was not a member of the walking wounded who had been chewed up and spat out by their previous faith communities (or at least by those brethren in charge of their previous faith communities). Born with a fairly big “God gene,” I had thus far enjoyed a fairly riveting walk through a number of religious venues – transcendentalism as expressed in “Little Women,” born-again-ism (more than once), transcendental meditation, Mormonism, a brief dabble in Buddhism-lite. All of this my resolutely non-religious family bore with fairly good grace even though I think they found me a little odd and occasionally a real pain in the butt. (“No, I won’t give Grandpa his Scotch at 6 because it goes against my religious principles.”) I enjoyed all of these sortees and came away pretty positive about all of it even if I couldn’t permanently swallow the whole tamale.

By the time I came to Quakerism, I had been off the path for about a decade, getting married, having children, and, shall we say, worshiping at the shrine of Bacchus. But children have a bad habit of getting one thinking about stuff other than the next good time. For reentry into the religious life, I took them to the local Methodist church. Everything a family could want – good people, nice minister who didn’t look as if he was going to demand anything scary, terrific youth program. Except I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t serve up the usual Christian boilerplate to my children and look them in the eye and say, “It’s all true.” So I asked my Quaker friend Catherine to take me to Meeting with her. I loved the idea of Quakers. Peaceful, serene, emanating, no doubt, a faintly ethereal glow powered by all of that brotherly love. Also, unusual and vaguely exotic, which I considered a plus. And if I wanted a spiritual path devoid of Christian boilerplate this was definitely it. So why did I feel so bereft at the absence of Jesus?

Posted by Patricia Barber at Head Upon a Stone.

With my head upon a stone

November 28, 2011
Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder

If there are a “chosen few”
then I am not one of them,
if an “elect,” well then
I have not been elected.
I am one who is knocking
at the door. I am one whose foot
is on the bottom rung.
But I know that Heaven’s
bottom rung is Heaven
though the ladder is standing
on the earth where I work
by day and at night sleep
with my head upon a stone.

— Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry (1934- ), American poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher and farmer.

If everyone farmed like Wendell Berry the world would be a better place. He is also a wonderful writer.

Love Wins

O Aleph

November 28, 2011

O Aleph by Paulo Coelho, published as Aleph in English, a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

What a year!

Christianity A History: Dark Ages

November 27, 2011
Lindisfarne Gospels

Lindisfarne Gospels

Christianity first came to Britain with the Romans. When the Romans left, Christianity all but died. Roman Christianity never displaced the local pagans and their temples of worship.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the only centres of learning and Christianity in Western Europe were the monasteries.

In England there were three competing religions: paganism, Roman Christianity and Celtic Christianity.

Celtic Christianity with its links to the East and the Coptic Church survived in the West of the Isles, Cornwall, Ireland and Wales.

Rome sent emissaries to Canterbury.

Rather than trying to subjugate the pagan kingdoms, they were too powerful, Christianity adapted. Pagan sites became the sites of churches, often the pagan temple became a church, festivals were adapted.

The Venerable Bede defined what it was to be English.

The Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (trans: Ecclesiastical History of the English People) is a work in Latin by Bede on the history of the Christian Churches in England, and of England generally; its main focus is on the conflict between Roman and Celtic Christianity. Referring to an English people, a Christian people. Several kingdoms, but one people.

Lindisfarne Gospels incorporated Islamic art. Incredible detail in the illuminations as you zoom in. Very reminiscent of fractals.

Charlemagne expanded the Holy Roman Empire across Europe. It was from England the conversion to Christianity took place.

King Alfred was a devout religious man, a scholar. He united the English under a common English language, he also translated parts of the Bible into English, one of the forerunners of the King James Bible.

King Alfred saw learning as important. Clergy had books but could not read them. He saw it as important that the people should have the word of God in their own language, that the Latin should be translated to English. Israel had the word in Hebrew, the Greeks in Greek, Romans in Latin, therefore why not the English in English?

Medieval translations of the Bible before King James

For these early Christians the empasis was inclusiveness, social justice. One could be a Dane and English.

We see echoes. The anti-slavery movement, the early socialists.

We see it today with St Paul’s in-the-Camp and St Paul’s working with the camp for social justice.

Responding to Occupy LSX
Cathedral protest — the tour