What is it good for? We all know the answer; absolutely nothing. Friend only to the undertaker. Edwin Starr was right.
The UN says that 1% of the world's population were, in August 2020, unable to remain in their homes or towns and villages because of war, poverty and/or terrorism. The Westminster government was well aware of this, but their only reponse was to shut down the foreign aid department and to resume selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, regardless of the blockade of Yemen that, by November, was causing 80% of the country's population to be in danger of starvation.
Our ancestors fought in WW1 but I still don't know why, and I don't suppose they did, either. Whatever it was, it can't possibly have been worth all those young men dying in the cold and mud far away from their loved ones. But what choice did they have? If they didn't go to war they were given white feathers to symbolise cowardice, and risked being sent to prison. If they went off to fight and found the horrors and fright too much to cope with they were at risk of being shot at dawn.
Robert Graves, poet and author of I Claudius, was an officer in WW1 and was asked to take part in the court martial of a soldier who was accused of throwing down his weapon and running away. Graves begged to be excused, on the grounds that he thought it unfair that he should be expected to condemn another soldier to death for doing precisely what he believed he would have done himself in the same circumstances.
Article 1.1 of the UN Charter states its aim thus:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.
Things aren't going to plan. When the United Nations refused to sanction the invasion and bombing of Iraq in 2003 their resolution was simply ignored by the USA under George W Bush and the UK under Tony Blair, leaving the UN exposed as an emasculated talking shop, with no authority to prevent the United States and any of its allies going to war whenever they choose to do so.
Saudi Arabia, not surprisingly, is the world's leading arms importer. Oxfam has reported that, since Saudi began its bombardment and blockade of Yemen in 2015, G20 countries have sold the country $17 billion worth of arms, which is more than three times the amount of money granted in humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people. When the German government banned sales to Saudi in 2018 other exporters filled the gap in supply immediately. Only the USA sells more weapons around the world than the UK.
To say that there's money to be made in the arms business would be to under-state the truth; it's like having a licence to print ££ an $$ but just as drug and people-traders become rich out of other people's misery the arms salesmen's luxury lifestyles are built on suffering and death. For example.....
On the day I typed this piece, 13 November, the media reported bodies strewn at the side of the road in Ethiopia, yet another fatal attack in Afghanistan, fighting on the Indian and Pakistani border and shooting of civilians by Moroccan police in Western Sahara. There are also ongoing conflicts causing death and destruction in Syria, Mali, Uganda, Libya, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mozambique and Ivory Coast. In four days from 9 to 12 November, more than 120 displaced people from Africa drowned in the Mediterranean. At least the war over Nagorno-Karabakh seems to be over after 3 failed ceasefires but many civilians have died unnecessarily there in the past few weeks.
If war is an ill thing, nuclear war is a thousand times worse. Thanks to The Ferret we know that the English government spent an additional £1 billion this year on atomic weapons, all of which are held here in Scotland even though the First Minister is a member of CND and there are hosts of better uses for £1 billion. In fact, if there is a worse use for $1 billion than spending it on weapons of mass destruction I can't think of one.
The bomb that destroyed Hiroshima had, according to various estimates, the destructive power of around 15 kilotons of TNT. Each of the UK's current weapons possesses power of between 15 and 40 times the Hiroshima bomb. 40 (of over 200) are deployed at any single time which means that right at this very moment the UK has the ability to inflict the equivalent of around 1,000 Hiroshimas. If the weapons are there simply as a deterrent, wouldn't one or two be enough?
It's estimated that the Little Boy bomb killed 140,000 people. Multiply that figure by 1,200 and the current arsenal seems unnecessarily large. Let's not forget that Scotland hosts this enormous capacity for destruction and that the Scottish people have absolutely no voice regarding its existence, size, positioning or use.
Save the Earth
I'm a very lucky boy to be staying out in the countryside by the sea. Once upon a time I lived in the middle of a big city. There was a constant noise and the streets were filthy, and on a bright summer day a smoky grey cloud hung in the air over the houses, and poisoned the folk down on the ground. The air itself was unhealthy to inhale and likely to give you a smoker's cough whether you use fags or not.
In lockdown, with less economic activity in the world, people that hadn't sniffed fresh air for years found their noses, eyes and lungs feeling better for the reduction in cars, lorries and aeroplanes. In the first 6 months of 2020 the reduction of greenhouse gases in the environment was greater than has ever been achieved before, but it's only a blip. Carbon dioxide levels continued to rise, regardless. Covid-19 is not going to save us from catastrophic climate change. For that to happen we need a virus that infects cars, planes, factories, farms and the CEOs and executives of companies that make huge short-term profits at the expense of the planet.
We've been cruel to Mother Earth for far too long. Perhaps we needed a kick up the arse to remind us of the fact. It would be stupid for us not to learn from what's happened, and is still happening this year. After COVID-19 people, hopefully, will be less busy and that's not at all a bad thing. Instead of polluting the world we can stop and sniff the roses.
It's our Big Chance to slow down the rate of climate change. if we don't do so, we're doomed for ever. We can't be bequesthing a dying world to our children and grandchildren.
No more new cars. No more aeroplane flights unless we happen to live on Fair Isle or another wee island where people would otherwise be cut off. We've learned to holiday at home and it's not much of a sacrifice after all.
Fifures show that Ineos is Scotland's biggest climate culprit but that the single most polluting site is the SSE-run Mossmorran fuel plant near Grangemouth, which will come as no surprise at all to the people who are unlucky enough to stay nearby.
The number of animal species in Scotland has dwindled by 24% since 1994. That should not be acceptable. We might not have noticed it here but 2019 was the hottest ever year in Europe and 11 of the hottest 12 have occurred within the last 20 years.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 square kilometers of Amazon rain forest was felled last year, and protesting about it, especially in South America, is very dangerous. Fires have also devastated the Pantanal Wetlands in 2020. In 2019, the first full year of the Presidency of Brazil's climate change-denying Joao Bolsonaro, 2.17 billion tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere, an increase of over 9% on the previous year.
According to the UN, the number of natural disasters occurring throughout the world has doubled since 2000 as a direct consequence of climate change.
Greenland's ice is melting more quickly than ever before. In the South Atlantic, an iceberg that broke away from Antarctica is threatening environmental disaster in South Georgia. In the last 30 years half the coral in the Great Barrier Reef has died.
It's now or never for the future of the Earth!
And let's all be kind to animals. One of the greatest pleasures of being allowed to travel more than 5 miles again was seeing a roe deer or a hare in a field, or birds by a loch, on the beach or next to a river. But we shouldn't just be considerate to animals because we like seeing them. They deserve our compassion because they have the capacity to feel fear and pain just as we do. Even the peediest insect will fly or scurry away if you approach it and the reason is that it's not in its best interests to be swatted and killed.
When you see a newly-born calf with its mother you can see how much they enjoy being together. If the calf is removed the cow will demonstrate her grief by mooing and crying for her wean. All mammals feel the same way. Considering the amount of pollution and greenhouse gas produced by animal farming, if you're wanting to protect the planet and to live a compassionate life, taking up a vegan diet is one of the best things you can do. And I say this even though I like farms and respect the hard work of farmers. I love the smell of cowshite, but if the best or only way to protect future generations of humans and animals is to cut down or eliminate meat and dairy production then we'll have to manage without.
And if you've ever wondered about it, the answer is Aye, meat that's sold or served up as lamb really is made from young sheep less than a year old that have been sent to a slaughterhouse. If it's called Spring lamb it usually means that the wee beast was butchered when it was 5 or 6 months old. As for male calves born on dairy farms, I'm sorry to have to tell you that this is what usually happens to them.
Do Racist Lives Matter?
Well. It's not easy to make a case for them. In a world that needs love they give us only hatred. At a time when we need peace they bring violence. Sooner than enjoy the world around them they prefer to take fear and misery into the streets of our towns and cities.
Noise rather than calm. The ugly and hideous instead of the bonnie and bright. Foul rather than sweet, fresh air. Pain, misery and injury before health, good cheer and life.
What can we say about people who take to the streets to broadcast their support for slavery? Did they look at the pictures of George Floyd's murder by Derek Chauvin and think it a great thing to squeeze the life out of a man because he was black?
One of the most appalling things about Officer Chauvin was the casual manner he adopted while he had George Floyd beneath his knee. His hands were in his pockets and he was chatting to his pals, to demonstrate to everybody his lack of interest in George Floyd's right to life. While you and I were scunnered, the bullies and dunderheids that disgraced Glesga after BLM protesters took to the city centre were, we must assume, excited.
It would have been helpful if one or two had witnessed one of their London billies being carried to safety by a black man and his band of brothers on a weekend of violence in London an thought again before breaking up the peaceful No Evictions march. No chance. It was all there; too much testosterone and alcohol, not enough humanity or reason and not a smidgen of compassion for anybody.
Protecting the Cenotaph? My erse!
Let's not pretend that we don't know the hooligans were mainly followers of Rangers FC, a football club that attracts unpleasant characters like no other in Scotland because it's the traditional favourite club of ultra-loyalists in Northern Ireland. That fact doesn't make me feel any great warmth toward Celtic, mind; they have plenty of sectarian, homophobic and racist fans of their own, as do many other clubs regardless of the black players on the field. With all respect to decent and reasonable supporters of the Auld Firm I wish a plague on both their houses; aye, and on racists and thugs everywhere whether they follow a fitba team or not.
If you can cope with reading about the self-styled National Defence League here's a link. Their leader was a bampot from Leeds, Lee Parkinson, who is now back in England, so if we're lucky we'll hear no more of the so-called NDL.
nb If you're wondering, the SE hasn't only recently discovered racism. I went on my first anti-National Front march in 1974. The NF was supposed to bring all the racist groups together, but soon it all fell apart, as the far right has done a few times since. It's no surprise that groups built on hatred can't stop themselves from falling out with each other. We'd have much more to worry about if it wasn't so.
The media in Scotland continue to hold the First Minister personally responsible for every business that's worried about going into lockdown and to imply that she is acting out of spite rather than trying to protect the people and the NHS from the effects of the virus. Meanwhile, in England she is routinely portrayed as a model of good sense and pragmatism in contrast to the shambolic approach of Boris Johnson and his Cabinet.
On 6 November the Spectator published an article headlined Nicola Sturgeon is not so different to Donald Trump, even though the First Minister is neither a bully nor a crook, has the required concentration span to be able to read a book or deliver a rational speech and has never incited her supporters to assault anyone or described gun-toting racists as very fine people.
The FM has been criticised for acting too soon and too late, for putting Covid-19 before independence and for putting independence before Covid-19, for not sacking Margaret Ferrier as an MP (which she doesnt have the power to do) and for throwing her under a bus by expelling her from the SNP. She has been accused of colluding with Alex Salmond over allegations of sexual misconduct, and of conspiring against him by taking part in a conspiracy to have him accused of sexual misconduct.
Unlike her English counterpart, the FM comes along daily, and has done so without a break since March, to explain to the people of Scotland what the Cabinet has decided on the strength of the medical advice they have been given, and to remind us of the necessity of taking precautions while sympathising over the hardship caused. For doing so, she is accused by the Tories, Labour and the Liberals of spreading Nationalist propaganda.
While the opposition parties see it as their traditional role to criticise the government, the most spiteful personal attacks, as is frequently so, come from Nicola's own side, from the Sputnik and Russia Today hacks, from male chauvinists and transphobes within her own Party and from the usual suspects on the fringes of the internet. None of these people will ever be in the position where they are accountable to the people of Scotland so they feel able to say what they like; a dollop of Anglophobia and a helping of foul-mouthed abuse are usually part of the recipe.
There is absolutely no guarantee that an independence referendum held today would result in an Aye vote; it might do, certainly, but before it took place the media would launch the kind of hate campaign that was used to attack Jeremy Corbyn before the Westminster Election in 2109. People who agree that next year, after the Holyrood Election has produced a strong mandate for Indy Ref 2, would be a more practical opportunity are mocked as being acolytes of St Nicola rather than folk who are simply taking an alternative, pragmatic view. One thing we can be sure of is that if we were to have a referendum now and lose it, we can forget all about having another for the next 20 years at least.
We can expect any anti-Nicola pro-independence parties to take the Donald Trump approach to the 2021 Election; when they get beaten they will claim it was all a fix. Wings Over Scotland, the mouthpiece, in my opinion, of a Trumpesque bully, is already getting those excuses in. The electoral failure of the Wings Party will be attributed to Stuart Campbell being banned from Twitter, which he fulminates over with the type of outraged innocence that characterises other demagogues like Trump and Tommy Robinson.
It's all very reminiscent of footballers who repeatedly foul their opponents, call the ref a bent bastard and then adopt an attitude of shock and disbelief when they are shown a red card.
I'm a member of a party other than the SNP but I like Nicola and admire her diligence and her evident generosity of spirit, whether I agree with her or not. I support independence whole-heartedly but would I want to live in a Scotland where the prevailing attitude was the one found on Wings or in the margins of the National's Comments section? No, I certainly wouldnae. Give me a kind and reasonable Unionist over a bitter and aggressive ultra-Nationalist any day of the week.
PS Aye, I agree that the government is being deliberately uncooperative with the enquiry into how they handled the investigation into the allegations made against Alex Salmond. It's become embarrassing, but so far no mud has stuck to Nicola herself. It might do, later, and if it does she will deserve to be criticised, but it's not yet a hanging offence in my opinion, regardless of the way it's being reported by her political rivals and the right wing media.
Also, Nicola looks a bit like Jimmy Krankie but it's time to move on from that fact. If it was ever witty to point out the resemblance it's definitely not so anymore.