It’s all about the oil (yawn – yes, again) – oh, and the arms sales.

I was wrong. I wasn’t cynical enough to ‘write the script’.

The truth (if there is any one truth in this mess) of the geo-political politics at play are not only devastatingly dangerous for us all – they at least have the grace to sound stranger than the craziest conspiracy-theorist’s confection.

But really. It’s all about the oil (yawn – yes, again). And the arms of course.

Discredited ravers and loonies like George Galloway* (former MP and ‘indefatigible’ pal of Saddam) knew (almost). But then he was certifiably bonkers, wasn’t he? And Jihadi Jez – well, he has always known but he’s also well enough aware when to keep his mouth shut – because look where opening it and voicing conspiracy-sounding mumbo-jumbo got you: on Celebrity Big Brother lapping Rula Lenska.

So, the solution was predetermined and – as Hollande was always destined to decide it is – we have  the intensified bombing of Syria (but carefully avoiding catastrophic damage of any area around a pipeline or oil field).

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – a death cult incubated and nourished by the US as a tool against Assad. Assad who stood in the way of the Qatar pipeline and trillions in oil supplies.

And it’s a fucking despicable immoral disgrace that I’m not speculating.

Declassified secret US government document which were obtained by the public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, show that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

Now, Judicial Watch is a Conservative Foundation right enough – and usually I’d be running screaming in the opposite direction – but in my book the exposure of corruption is non-ideologicalSo I am relieved that someone (though I’d really rather it wasn’t them) is forcing the US Government to release documentation through court pursuit of FOI requests. I’m just astonished that the governmental-fuckers haven’t tampered with the goodies before release (or maybe they have).

It’s the US military-industrial complex that is the clear winner here. With billions of dollars (just a link to one example – you can google or imagine the rest) of arms contracts  just signed and sealed in the last months – continuing a long-established and lucrative practice.

The UK arms manufacturers get a look in too.

Amnesty International issues calls for cessation of the sales – but they’d be better farting into the wind. All the whistle-blowers in the world could trumpet their truths from the roof-tops of every house – but there’d be nobody listening or prepared to believe them. We’re all too pumped up, hating on refugees from the wars we have created and sponsored. We’re all to busy punching Muslim shop-keepers in the face.

US Vice President Joe Biden, for instance, admitted last year that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey had funnelled hundreds of millions of dollars to Islamist rebels in Syria that metamorphosed into ISIS.

Where – at least here, in the UK mainstream press, has that been reported?

And now I don’t wonder why.

  • See Hansard from 1.5pm onwards

Staring into the Abyss

The obscenity of Paris and Beirut stupefy.

The killers make a travesty of their religion and of humanity.

And so we spiral deeper into hate-fuelled fear and suspicion and violence.

Violence begets violence. There will be no turning of the other cheek for our frenzied, whipped up countries.

It’s not hard to write the script. Expect Cameron to force another vote on bombing Syria. Expect the Commons to support him. Expect an escalation of violence. The actions being taken in the Middle East serving to fuel our own home-grown terrorists’ justifications – their sense of outrage propelling them into our public spaces with guns and explosive belts.

This is manna to terrorists such as ISIS. The creation of chaos. The promotion of instability.

They have engineered – with the mindless thoughtless collusion of the West (who the fuck presses on with violent regime change without any hint of an idea as to who will fill the resultant power vacuum?) – a conflagration that leads to the massing of refugees on Europe’s borders and an ISIS-helpful spike in Europe’s xenophobic groupings. Europeans begin to fight amongst themselves. The German’s progressive stance becoming a stick with which to beat them. Communities divided by their respective pro/anti positions on ‘Islam’ and on refugees.

And so, we need to ask: who stands to benefit from this chaos?

Surely, terrorists and arms dealers and the hawkish. Xenophobic groupings from all sides. Fundamentalists. And then there are the power hungry seeking to consolidate their grip on their respective countries through fear and through hate.

The passage last week of increasingly draconian legislation authorising the monitoring and storage of our online ‘data’ is simply the beginning of the end of any illusion we had of ‘freedom’ and liberty.

If the 9th September attacks on the US delivered a terminal blow to tolerance and plurality, yesterday took us one large step along the road to fortress Europe; and ultimately – if we cannot halt the escalation – to totalitarianism and police states.

In this political decade of public body austerity the only Government bodies to benefit will be our intelligence services and our military and our police. None, of course, would welcome the deaths. But this warped aggression will secure their additional funding for years to come.

Try arguing against ID cards now. Try talking about the right to privacy or about human rights. Attacks on personal and social liberty will be justified with a blasé ‘if you’ve nothing to hide you’ve nothing to fear’.

And hope?

Hope – if it’s to have any chance – lies in de-escalation. It lies in re-building broken communities in the Middle East. In the reconstruction of shattered infrastructure. It lies in hands of friendship being extended to Muslims who are the victims of ISIS – and the provision of adequate meaningful support to them. And it lies with an Israel that can seek to barter peace with its old enemies.

For my children’s sakes – for the sake of the children everywhere – I hope my fears are not realised. I hope that we can walk away from the edge of this abyss.

Life’s Not Fair

Bet you know – that you can say, hand on heart – that life’s not fair.

I’ve been parroting it for years. Knowing and saying without feeling.

There’s a tipping point in every life. And I’ve passed it.

I realise now that life, living – it’s the process of accretion; gain; growth. Followed by loss.

Some of us live with loss from an early age. That was not me. So my tipping point comes now.

My son’s friend – his closest friend for a long time – was diagnosed with Leukaemia three days after Iain died. She is a bright beautiful girl. Interesting and interested. Loving to talk. Always smiling and laughing. And with a large and very close family who will carry her along on their human tide of sheer determination and love. They are full of energy. They – and our community – have generated a tsunami of good intent. Unable to cure her themselves they have chosen action – their incomprehension has raised over £17k already for Teenage Cancer Trust.

I have tried to make sense of it all. I can’t. Aside from knowing there’s a science behind illness and that we all die. I can’t answer Why.

I think it might be easier if I had faith. I don’t.

It makes sense – to me – that I believe there is no more sense in me looking for sense in what is ‘the senseless’ than it is for me to think there is a God.

We live. We are weak. Fragile. Prone to venality and cruelties and obscenities. And also greatness. Wisdom. Compassion. Insight. Achievement in the name of the greater good.

As for ‘what it’s all for’?

Nothing. Or nothing more than the continuation of ‘us’. We are neither moral or immoral. We just are. Morality – the rules – all the laws – they are what we create in order to optimise our chance of survival and continuation. We form communities and societies to give ourselves the greatest chance of survival. We invent God because we need things to make sense and we need sensereasons if we are to continue to live. And surely only God ensures the fact of us makes sense.

We are a strange soup; detritus from the cosmic Petri dish. Just an accident. Inevitable, really, given infinity. A certainty to arrive at some point. A twist of the universal kaleidoscope – and suddenly all the conditions are right. Bingo. Here we are. Killing and healing and judging and loving one another.

There is no sense in that girl getting leukaemia. None. There is no ‘deserving’. No ‘rightness’. Just as there was no sense in my Gran dying of throat and lung cancer or my father having a heart attack at 40 or my mother’s malignant uterus. There was no sense in my husband losing his mother when he was 12. No sense in his father’s early catastrophic stroke. And then there’s Ebola, Aids, wars and famine – these four the piss-froth of senselessness.

Paris tonight a fresh apex of senseless.

Surely, surely, it is because there is no ‘Why’ that we have the biggest reason to live life to the full. Not to kill. Not to hurt. But to nurture. Because if this is it – if this is all there is – then we have a duty to one another to make this as good as it can be.

  • The fund-raiser for Erin can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/Nicole-McCafferty/

A Loveable Rogue

He taught me how to speak. Or so he said. I remember how his age – just out of grasp of childhood – made him seem exciting. The motorbike did nothing to discourage that view.

He was simultaneously a big wain and an adult. The clichéd ‘boy trapped in man’s body’.

Big. Larger than life. Handsome. Funny. Always tricking us with riddles. Ready with jokes that we wouldn’t know were jokes til the end. And even then we sometimes wondered.

I was a favourite. If he exaggerated about teaching me how to speak he could claim, truthfully, that he taught me how to play my first flute.

He’d joined and left the army by then. Lasted a short 2 years. Fell out a window, apparently and was pensioned out. That doesn’t surprise me.

He was the baby of the family. The youngest uncle. Almost my age. And he was spoilt. Everyone loved the baby. The baby got away with murder. He was the apple of fierce Granny’s eye. He alone could charm her rage away and get around her emphatic ‘No!’

She’d stand guard over his bedroom daring us to creep upstairs She’d scourge us with hand and tongue if she caught us even thinking about trespassing. But the lure of the citizen band radio; the astonishing mess – they were enough temptation for us to risk her rage and the musty smell of sweaty man room.

He never could stick at anything. He was clever. But had inherited the family trait of laziness. His ideas tumbled fast and chaotic but ultimately were abandoned half-done or sold on to someone else with the stamina to see it through. So his bus company was just closed. His village shop was shuttered. His buying and selling was half-heartedly pursued. His various careers foundered, eventually.

Though if there’d been a prize for downing most pints in a night; buying most rounds in a pub; taking part in most pub quizzes or most times waking up in Ireland after a 2 day binge that started in Scotland – well, he’d have won the Distinction prize.

He was never ‘responsible’. His sense of duty continually at war with his desire to bugger off, show off and have fun.

So a late marriage and a late child and a profoundly disabled wife – none held him back. He’d do what he wanted to do. Then follow the worst excesses with a 3 or 4 month scourging period of abstention and self-castigation.

In older age he became a stiff-necked patriarch – but only where his daughter was concerned. Forbidding ‘fornication’ (ironic given his florid past as a master fornicator) under his roof.

But even then he was always mein host. Grand and warm and welcoming. Sincerely so.

This last year had been grim for him. His vast bulk and appetite for alcohol did for him. That and the severe psoriasis and associated arthritis; the heart condition and the lungs that wouldn’t stop filling with fluid.

He spoke to me at Xmas whilst he was critically ill in hospital – about his Will and asking me to be an Executor. Three weeks before he died he came here. His 6 foot frame shrunk to a 10 stone shadow. Waxen skinned and breathless. Still trying to entertain with jokes. ‘Here. Eevon. Have ye heard the one…’ (always the stress on the first ‘E’ sound of my name).

Over the intervening period between that visit and the 26th of October, Evan went over to his to paint the fence and front door. I took the usual semi-nocturnal drunken calls from the pub: ‘Here. Eevon. A met a wummin thit says she studied wae you… Is that right?’

Mum always said he had a death wish.  She told him that frequently. She’d long given up trying to ‘change’ him.Her wee baby brother. The one who left her skint – forever ‘borrowing’ when he was younger. The one who went to hell after Granny died. The one who sent my gentle old Pa to hell as a result. The one we all loved. Despite his frailties. Despite it all.

Because that is how it goes. That is what it is to be human.

He was alive and now is dead. He was loved. He was fretted over. He did – mostly – his own thing. His weakness? Not being able to stick to any one path with any sense of commitment. But how many of us are like that.

If we are lucky, we love. We’re not blinded to behaviours. We are frequently frustrated; sometimes angry; occasionally furious. But we love.

He was my tragic hero. My lovely flawed uncle.