Art Values and Beliefs

Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich- Sounds of Heaven

A series of concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on the theme of:

Belief and Beyond Belief

The belief in something greater than ourselves has preoccupied humanity for centuries. In this festival of music inspired by spiritual belief, we attempt to lay open the grandeur, enigma and conflict in our search for, and understanding of, the divine.

I didn’t know the theme of the concert when I went to it. I like Steve Reich and was just up for the moment. Of course, midweek, you start to think about late nights and getting up for work the next day.

Well, if this is sacrifice, it was worth it!

This concert was as if I had been dropped into holiness. Sounds of heaven.

It started with Gavin Bryars- The Sinking of the Titanic- with voices of survivors. Old voices never to be heard again, immortalised. Beautifully performed by members of the Philharmonic Orchestra.

They went on to play Gavin Bryars- Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet sung by a tramp in the Elephant and Castle. The respect given to this made it a holy act, recognising the human in the other.

Even at the end of each piece the audience remained in silence to give space to the work. And then applause. And then Gavin Bryars got out of his seat just in front of us and took a bow. Oh! What a place to be. Composer, Gavin Bryars

Now I am never sure about going to concerts. With things like Spotify, I can enjoy music in the peace and privacy of my home without people coughing or nodding off to sleep next to me. I can understand why the man next to me fell asleep. Commuting to work, working, coming to an evening concert in the middle of the week and then getting home and to bed and back to work- yes, sleep comes easy.

But last night I really got it. Being there.

The Steve Reich work ‘For 18 musicians’ was just that. Eighteen musicians of incredible ability, concentration and fitness to have the stamina to play such a deceptive piece, sounding so simple, but so complex. It was choreographed with singers, pianists and percussionists moving from one instrument to the next with the woodwind giving the breath of life to the whole.

Image result for steve reich royal festival hall

We came out buzzing. The people we had sat opposite in the cafe in polite British silence before the concert, rocked up also full of enthusiasm, as if close friends, so moved by the event. I said, as she did at the same moment, how lucky I was to have been alive for this, to have been there to hear and see it.

And now I am listening at work on Spotify. I prefer the live version, but I am still moved. And I can see them all, performing with such care, such concentration, such ability and perfection. A holy act.

That in the middle of so much stupidity by so many humans there are some humans doing this. At moments like this I understand the claim that we humans really are in the image and likeness of God and that, if we all try, we are all capable of imitating holiness.

Such respect for sound, for art and for the ‘other’.

Sheer beauty.


Science & Health Values and Beliefs

Mortality OR Cancer- the Boolean Algorithm of Life!

Not the easiest title to  very contentious issues- preventing ageing, becoming immortal, regenerating ourselves and looking like 28 forever.

Image result for ageing

Cells in the human body come in a variety of types, there are about 206, such as skin cells, kidney cells, liver cells, bone cells and within these categories (skin, kidney, liver, bone) there are subgroups of cells.

For instance, in skin there are epithelial such as keratinocytes, melanocytes and connective cells such as fibroblasts. About 206 types of cells. Any of which can become aberrant and tumorous. That is part of the reason we do not have a one fix for cancer, which cell is cancerous has to be found, nor one check for cancer as each type of cancer appears in a different part of the body.

We cannot detect a cancer until there are about 1 gram of cells, which constitutes about 109 cells, which is a 1 with 9 zeros after it- a billion cells. There are 206 types of cells, but there are many cells of each of these types. We humans are composed of about 1013 cells, a one with 13 zeros, 10 trillion cells. So finding the correct cancer and detecting it early is not easy. If it was, we would have cured it ages ago.

However, what most people do not know is that cancers are probably changes in stem cells. There are about 206 types of cells in the body. These tend to be functional cells, the cells that do something, move oxygen, filter, waste, pump blood, digest food. While they do the stuff of life, the activities that keep us in what is called homeostasis, they get worn out by their work (as do we!) and can go through one of two possibilities, regeneration or death. On the whole they die. They are replaced by their other cells. These cells develop into the type of cell they are replacing, do their job, get worn out and die. All over the body this is happening. While you are reading this about 40 million cells in your body have died (about 60 billion cells die per day).  About 2,800,000 red blood cells die per second! They have to be replaced.

Stem cells are the cells that replace the worn out functional end cells, or terminal cells. Stem cells are the feeder cells. They don’t do the functions, the activities of the body. What they do is produce under-developed cells into the areas that need replacing. Blood stem cells (found in bone marrow) feed the appropriate number of cells into the various blood cell types. The cells develop through a number of cell divisions to become all the cell types of blood, red blood cells (erythrocytes), granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils), monocytes (macrophages), leukocytes (T cells and B cells) and platelets (thrombocytes). And that is just the cells of the blood. There are stem cells whose daughter cells make all the types of cells of the liver. There are stem cells whose daughters make most of the skin cells.

Stem cells live their lives as producers of cells that go on to produce more cells that actually do things. Stem cells are the producers of potential activities, but do nothing apart from produce cells that go on to realise their potential. Stem cells tend to have names such as Somatic Multipotent Cells or Embryonic Pluripotent Cells. These names describe the potential of the cells they give birth to.

Multipotent are stem cells such as the blood stem cells described above. They can give birth to daughter cells that can become different types of blood cells, but they don’t become muscle or skin or liver cells.

Pluripotent stem cells have more potential. The daughter cells can become all the types of cells of the body, all 206 types. But pluripotent cells are more primitive. They exist only in the first few days of life (days 5-14 post conception, post fertilisation). Very soon, the embryo pluripotent stem cells become more restricted. They become multipotent. They make daughters in one compartment of the body, the skin, the bone, the muscle, the liver.

This is the basis of life. Lots of potential and lots of realisation. Some cells have the potential, but do nothing much apart from give birth to cell that will do lots. Some cells do lots, but die.

Cancer is when the terminal cells, the functional cells, refuse to die and start to have the characteristics of earlier, less developed cells; lots of potential but no actualisation. In fact, we grade cancers by how ‘underdeveloped’ the cells are, how backwards they have gone in what they do. We call the development of mature features, the development of being functional ‘differentiation’. Stem cells and cancer cells are less differentiated, have become less different, undifferentiated.

We can live with potential, what we could have been, or we can live with realising our potential!

But being alive is being mortal.

‘And the clock waits so patiently on your song’.Image result for david bowie rock and roll suicide



At the moment there are some duff anti-ageing ‘research’. Some of it is being done by people who do not have much if any biology background (they are hiding that). They are the equivalent of an evangelical preacher who acts live The Prophet. There are a lot of them around talking nonsense, but saying what people want to hear. They have some rich backers. Because you have made a fortune in oil or tyre manufacture does not make you a genius.

We have a programme, ‘Dragon’s Den’ where people that have made money take a bet on other people’s money making ideas. It is a bet. They talk as if the people asking for cash input are stupid, but given that many of the panellists (the Dragons) have backed losers in their time, the crystal ball of predictions is as accurate for them as for the rest of us. Given that we have finally realised that economists are on the same level as crystal ball gazers, we might realise that rich people are not necessarily the font of all knowledge.  As they have made money they wish to be immortal. Immortality, in humans, is a sign of primitiveness;  lots of potential, but no differentiation, no actualisation.

Realise your potential and die. Please. Future generations do not want these people to live forever. They don’t want any of us around forever. They want vital alive people. People born with potential and realising it. Not people scared to move just in case they are run over by a truck or smile just in case they get a wrinkle.

Our job on this planet is to realise our own potential, the amazing things we can do. We can all do crap primitive stuff like killing people and destroying things. That is what children do. Destruction. Realising your potential is becoming adult, creative, growing up, caring. So please realise your potentials and help all people to realise theirs.

And then leave.




Values and Beliefs

Maps : Finding ourselves and others

Recently I watched a wonderful programme on Channel 4 TV in the UK called ‘Keeping up with the Khans’ about immigration to the UK, specifically to a town called Sheffield. It had wit and charm and made every person into a human being.

There was one man on the programme from Lebanon. He had a problem finding his country on the map and was surprised to see how small it was.

He then could not find the UK. At first he thought that the USA was the UK. He then pointed to Turkey. He thought the UK was a lot bigger than it is. That thought was shared by another immigrant from the Sudan. He said it must be large because the UK is also called Great Britain, which logically should refer to size.  It seemed a good point. In fact, the UK fits into the state of Texas in the USA, not the USA, but just the state of Texas, about three times!

The  blue is the USA, the black is Texas and then it is enlarged to show the yellow, which is the UK, super-imposed on it to show the size of the UK in proportion to Texas and the USA.

The man from the Lebanon did not seem to realise that the UK is an island, a very small one at that. The man from Sudan had come over from Calais and knew the UK was an island.

Having a sense of the size of countries and the size of continents is very difficult if you haven’t seen comparative maps, if you only see your place in isolation, as it appears on a Sat Nav.

This is a map of the continent of Africa with many other very large countries super-imposed on it.

But on the news earlier the Swedish foreign minister when asked about migrant numbers said that the UK should do more as it is much bigger than Sweden. So I went on Professor Google!

The UK is about 94,000 sq miles (241,000 sq km) with a population of about 100 million and Sweden is about 175,000 sq miles (449,000 sq km) with a population of about 8 million. In my humble arithmetic, Sweden is about 2 times the size of the UK. And that is a foreign minister.

What is going on in our schools worldwide? Are none of us looking at maps? Are none of us seeing maps?

The problem with using Satellite Navigators (Sat Navs) in our cars or on our phones is that there is no context. You do not know where you are!

The algorithms of computers are not knowledge. They tell you what to do next so you don’t have to look or know anything much.

But maps reveal place and context. They also show size.


Image result for comparative size of europe and saudi arabia



This is for anybody that knows the above shapes are  a map of Europe with the Gulf states superimposed on it for size comparison. 

We need to look at maps to see where we are in relation to where other people are. It is a disgrace that our leaders cannot find the countries they are talking about or bombing on a map. They have no idea about where it is and what countries are next to them. Those being talked about or bombed also have little idea of where the place is that is doing that to them. Many political decisions rest on maps and we need to see them and understand ourselves in the context of others.

For instance, there is a mantra that many people repeat about a two state solution in the Middle East. But the areas they tend to talk about doing this to are not contiguous; they are not next to each other. They have no idea where anywhere is or the relation of one place to another or the size of the places and whether they are feasible because they have not looked at maps. Maps of the world. Maps of a region. Maps.



Comparison of the UK (in white) and Israel and the West Bank (in blue). The West Bank is the size of Dorset, a county (region) in the UK.

Two State Solutions

For instance: When the Muslim people living  in India fought for their own (Muslim) state the British Government  decided that a two state solution would prevent a civil war. There was to be a Muslim state and a Hindu state. in other words two countries based on religious belief. This process, which happened in 1947, was called Partition.

The British ceded the area now known as Pakistan, a huge, vast area, and another large, but smaller area that  was meant to be East Pakistan, as one Muslim state and India as the Hindu state.

However, Pakistan and East Pakistan are not contiguous. They are separated by a vast country, India, of which both the areas of Pakistan and East Pakistan originally formed a part. So of course the two state solution was geographically ungovernable as two countries (India and Pakistan West / East).

This tragic time ended up, instead, becoming a three state solution:

  • India
  • Pakistan,
  • Bangladesh.

Look at the map of the region.

Eight million people died during this partition. Nobody really talks about it.  Fourteen and a half million people were uprooted.

Not thousands, not tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. 14.5 million moved from one state to the other and 8 million died trying to move in 1947.

The disputed territory of Kashmir between the border of India and Pakistan is huge, 222,000 sq km, the size of the UK

Of course if anybody bothered to look they would also find that Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous.

  • Maps can be made showing geographical features such as valleys and mountains, oceans and lands.
  • Maps can be made showing political features, the borders and countries of the world.
  • Maps can be made showing population features, density of humans or other species of interest.
  • Maps can be made showing epidemiological features, the spread of diseases or traits.
  • Maps can be made of economic features showing the distribution of wealth or trade or tourism.
  • Maps can be made showing linguist features, the distribution of languages.
  • Maps can be made showing religious distributions or political-religious distributions as some countries are theocracies.

All countries have some theocratic history to them, when they were mainly one religion or another. Some have remained theocratic. My map, below, shows a religious distribution to the best of my colouring in abilities.

Unlike the man from Lebanon trying to find his mother’s house on a world map, you cannot see yourself on a map of the world. You are not the centre of all worlds. You are only the centre of your own selfie.

Maps give us perspective.

I think, in a world of platitudes and political decisions by people who have no idea where we are talking about, or what we are talking about, we need to look at maps.

Here is a map of the world (minus the Artic and Antarctic):

Countries by main religion

The countries in Red are predominantly Christian.

The countries in Green are predominantly Muslim.

The countries in Purple are predominantly Buddhist.

The countries in Yellow are predominantly  Hindu.

The countries in Blue are predominantly Jewish.

A little perspective goes a long way.

Values and Beliefs

Trans – Converting – Changing versus Appropriation

I am a Londoner. I am not boasting; merely stating a fact.

I was born and raised in London. That makes me a Londoner. I have lived in other places. But being born and raised in London means that I am a Londoner.

If I go to live in Paris or Venice for instance, I will not be Parisian or Venetian and I would bet that you would not think I was and the people who are Parisian or Venetian would not think I was. I would be a British person (specifically a Londoner) living in another place. We cannot change where we were born. We can change nationality, become, for example,  French or Italian, but we always remain an incomer of the place we live in. I say this in a town where 80% of the inhabitants are incomers, from all over the UK and abroad. I find it amusing and sometimes irritating when incomers call themselves Londoners. I am sure that I would not be counted as a Liverpudlian (from Liverpool) or a Brummie (from Birmingham) or a Mancunian (from Manchester) or an Amsterdam-er or whatever if I went to live in their town.

I point out Amsterdam as an example, having met a person from Holland who had lived in various places and then moved to London and thought that she too was now a Londoner, in the same way that I was. Her ally, from Toronto thought the same. I found this very strange knowing it would not work the other way round.

We are quite selective about what we think we can appropriate from others and whether they can appropriate stuff from us.

When is it sharing cultures, being multicultural (ie being nothing!) or is it an act of committing plagiarism and cultural appropriation?

I just saw an Instagram from a friend about  white men having their hair in plaits or cornrows.

We all know those white European men that grow dreadlocks and talk with a Caribbean accent (I love Caribbean accents) and play reggae music. Who thinks they are Caribbean? Who thinks they are black? Who thinks that they have had to put up with the experiences of being black in a white culture?

Empathy does not change your skin colour or your history, your memories or your childhood.

My friend did not like this latest hair fashion/appropriation. He complained that they were taking his traditional African heritage. I know there are also all those blond German women in plaits in photos from the 1930s, but I can appreciate his point.

He is not alone in thinking it:

An Open Letter to White People With Dreadlocks

White women in saris; what do we think?

And that trend for putting a Bindi on your forehead with no understanding of what it is, reducing a cultural mark to a fashion statement. Is that a good thing, making it a universal mark, or appropriation of somebody else’s culture in a clumsy colonialism?




Recently, I have met quite a few people that have wanted to or have converted to Judaism. I am not always sure what they think they are converting to or why. I think they are converting to a religion. Their problem is that their parents and families are not also converting so they can’t have those same moments of going home to a traditional Shabbat dinner with parents etc.

You cannot change your history quite as easily as you may re-write it.

The Rabbis of old had a longer view. They willingly accepted genuine converts, but argued about whether they were the same as the children of converts or their children. It takes a few generations to become. There is a saying: ‘Question: Who is a Jew? Answer: A person who has Jewish grandchildren’. It might rule a lot of us out, and in an age of instant gratification, it might not be a popular view, but it may be true. Think about it.

If I emigrate to Jamaica and am granted Jamaican citizenship, how Jamaican am I?  I don’t share those memories. How Jamaican would my child be given that I might still do very British things at home? But my child’s child, my grandchild, brought up by a person born in Jamaica and probably another parent of Jamaican origin, would be Jamaican in a way I could never manage. I accept that.

Growing up is a big part of becoming who you are. When do we stop being who we were? What are we allowed to do when we change, to become who we are or who we want to be? And what is change and what is appropriation?

There are many people that I have encountered that have converted to Judaism and then started to  become an ‘Uber-Jew’, more Jewish than any other Jew. They start using Yiddish expressions, like the white man growing his dreadlocks and talking patois. Yiddish is not Judaism. That would invalidate all the Mizrahi and Sepahardic Jews who don’t know a bagel from a kreplach.

You can convert to Judaism (the religion) and be called a Jew or a Jewish person, but you cannot convert to be Ashkenazi or Sephardi, or Mizrachi. You still have the culture and ethnicity of your birth.

I know of one friend of mine who did this; became Uber Jew. Eventually, I complained. Even if they became ultra-orthodox or found out they had a Rabbi for a grandfather they would never be as Jewish in the way as a born Jew, nor be from a particular group such as Ashkenazi or Sephardic. They did not grow up Jewish in a non-Jewish world. They grew up in a religion that was quite dominant in their world. So they did not feel like an outsider. It was not the culture of their parents  They did not suffer anti-Semitism. Their parents did not have to protect them from this. They did not hold their parent’s hopes that they would ‘marry in’. They did not feel obliged to keep the faith or chose to lose the faith. They chose to become something as an adult. They moved from one place to another. This friend is fully entitled to do that and I treat them as a Jew, but they can also move back, of course, while a born Jew can never stop being Jewish, even if they do not believe in Judaism.

A convert to Judaism, can be more religious, but cannot be more Jewish than a born Jew, even one eating a prawn sandwich on Yom Kippur, who doesn’t do Judaism, the religion. No amount of throwing around Yiddish expressions in a pastiche of being Jewish will change that. You know what everyone is thinking when they find out your parents were Episcopalian or Catholic or whatever. I can’t help that, but I know that.

So how much can you change yourself?

I ask this with the trans- gender debate going on. I think if you want to change your gender and you are over 18, that is your choice. If you feel like that who am I, or anyone else, to argue otherwise? But, and there is a very large but, you need to accept that you will never be as like the other gender as the people born of that gender. Even the lapsed ones!

If you are born female you will always be more female than a trans female. Even if you dress in very butch clothes, have cropped hair and look like a man, you have all the body of a female. A trans woman has not gone through the same adolescence, sexual maturation and fertility maturation as a born woman. You just have to accept that. A trans woman will never know what a period pain is, the worries and anxieties about having a period (or not) or the pain (or joys) of childbirth. A trans woman will never have the fears of ovarian or cervical cancer nor the undignified medical checks. A trans woman has not had the same expectations from her parents as a born woman.

What you want and what is do not always concur.

So born women may feel differently about their bodies as they were born with them rather than chose them.  They may have hated being given dolls and dressed in pink, but even in black jeans and train sets they are female. Their childhoods, while individual, will have had things in common that are different to trans women and to try to diminish that is insulting to women, just as the dreadlocked white man will never really know what it is like to be of African or Caribbean origin.

Trans women often feel more comfortable with other trans women. Why is that? Are all born women uncomfortable with them or are born women not sure about this ‘Uber female’ one that out-females them and is often more ‘feminine’ than any born female, but has not had the bodily experience, the fears and anxieties of born women. To deny the born women’s experience is an insult to born women.

If you are a female transitioning to male you too will not become able to be a fertile male, You cannot pretend otherwise. You cannot have gone through some of the passages that most born males have gone through. You have not gone through the expectations of parents for that gender, right or wrong.

So while I completely accept that people may want to change their gender, they need to respect the people who were born that gender as being of that gender in a way that they can never be.

I am a Londoner. I cannot change that even if I live somewhere else. I can become for example French by changing my nationality, but not Parisian or Marseille, and I can never even be French in the same way that a person born in France and going through a French school and family is. My memories of childhood are different. I have to accept that too. There are times I would love to be something else and perhaps I can become that. But I cannot change my past nor invalidate the past of others who I wish to emulate. I cannot be more like them then them.

Values and Beliefs

Killing God

What happened in Paris on Friday night?

What do the gun men think they were doing?


Each and every one of us is in the image and likeness of God.

That is every human since the beginning.

Not just one group of humans.

Every human.

Every time you kill one of us you kill the God in us.

That is blasphemy.

How do you think God feels about that?

How do you think God is going to reward the destruction of creation?

In the name of God?   Really?

Let us bow our heads in shame.

Values and Beliefs

Killing People is Easy

At this moment in time I am avoiding turning on the news. To hear of more murders and destruction takes the joy out of life.

Image result for news on tv

This morning I sat and looked out at the part of the planet I am on.

I could see the works of humans. Magnificent buildings and structures.

I am awe-struck that we humans produce such things and I do not use the word ‘awe’ in my conversation lightly (as in: that coffee is awesome, maybe because it is often awful). Awe is something I reserve for God-like actions.

I am also struck by the magnificence of the planet. I am not sure if you can have an objective measure of its magnificence or if humans are so adapted to it that we find home magnificent, but its beauty never ceases to amaze me.

That there are humans that make magnificent structures and have made them for millennium on this wonderful planet, that there are humans that celebrate its beauty, that add to it, these creations make those humans

If you believe in God surely God would be very pleased with them.

So I find it hard to listen to the news with so much destruction and murder. Especially when it is done in the name of a God.

Especially when there is a claim that this is the right thing to do, as if some great intellectual feat had been accomplished by it.

As if this was a clever idea done by clever or sensible people with just cause. Especially when they say it was a hard decision!

You see killing people is easy.

I know there are all those stupid films where they talk about a ‘hard kill’, but it is ridiculously easy to kill people.

We have been killing people for millennia in the same manner that we can kill any living thing.

It does not take brains or brawn to kill.

In fact, the more stupid and weedy you are the easier as there are so many weapons out there for the incompetent.

A child can kill by picking up a gun and shooting it.

How hard it that?

How intelligent is that?

How magnificent is that?

Image result for guns

You can even kill people by accident, in a car crash for example. Without planning. Without intent.

You can kill people perversely or by torture, with much pain and suffering. We all know that this is not justice; it is not on the side of right. It is psychotic. You are not a judge or a righteous person. You are a psychopath.

You can kill people by neglect and abandonment, by lack of care.

Oh it is so easy to kill people, any fool can do it.

Why would I want to watch such childish stupid on the news or on a film? Why would you want to do that? What sort of a pervert are you that you play killing games? Grow up. Leave the base animal behind.

Killing people is easy, it is for the stupid, the dull, the base.

What is really, really hard to do is to help people to live,

It is especially hard to help them to live well.

That takes effort, care, love, intelligence, righteousness.

That is God-like.

That is human.

That is magnificent.

Image result for care

Values and Beliefs

Killing 52 (+4) Universes- The 7/7 bombings

Image result for big bang

The Torah is a remarkable book. It outlines a creation story, how the universe came to be, and that it all starts with nothing. There is no universe, it is null and void. And then God says ‘Let there be light’. Sounds a bit like the Big Bang; this sudden creation of something.

It took Copernicus another 2500 years to find out that the Earth goes round the Sun, not the other way round. In other words, the whole planet Earth on which we live is not in the centre of this solar system, let alone the universe. This means that humans are not the centre of the universe. They are not the founders of it and they are not the centre of it.

Image result for planet earth from space

As we humans are not the centre of the universe,  we might get to thinking that we are so insignificant that each one of us does not matter, we are disposable.



The Torah says all the living things on this planet are created from this planet Earth and that humans are created also from Earth. The name Adam means red, the red earth.  All things, including living things, are therefore material (matter) which means we are all chemical beings.

But all things also have what the Kabbalists (the mystics) would say, a spark of the divine. So all material things are chemical, but also have the sparks of creation (the Big Bang) in them.

When humans are created, we emanate from God, according to the Torah, so we too have those sparks in, the sparks of the Divine or the energy of the Big Bang, if you prefer.

However it says in the Torah, we humans are also created after ‘the likeness and in the shadow of God’.

Humans, have a lot of sparks of the divine, but not only the sparks, they are in a similar spirit to God, in the shadow and likeness. This makes humans very special, very dear to God.

The Rabbis say that to kill a human is to kill a universe. You are killing what they are, their life; and you are killing what they could become; their potential. You are cutting off the sparks and the spirit.

I say this as we have just commemorated the 7/7 bombings in London, which occurred on the 7th of July 2005, ten years ago.

Fifty two (+4) human lives were obliterated.

Fifty two (+4) universes wiped off the planet.

All things are precious.

All living things are very precious.

Humans are in the shadow and likeness of God.

Killing humans is killing the likeness of God.

That is blasphemy.

Adam and Eve did not belong to a religion or tribe or cult. That is the beauty of these passages in the Torah. They were not Jewish, Christian or Muslim or anything. They were ‘every-human’.

adam and eveAdam and Eve are the first humans. However they arose, by Creation or by Evolution, they are the parents of us all. That is what the Torah is saying. All human life descends from them, either because God created them or Evolution evolved them.

If you believe in Evolution, then each one of us is descended from our same ancestors. We are all related, one species. Killing any one of us is obscene. You are murdering your family members. Each and every one of us is related, regardless of tribe or belief. The Torah is saying the same thing.

If you believe that God created humans then killing their descendants, any one of us, is blasphemy. How dare you? How dare you say you believe in God and then try to kill God; to kill God’s spirit; to kill us humans? We are all in the shadow and likeness of God.

To kill a human is to kill a universe; a created or evolved universe, an emanation of the Divine or of Evolution, a descendant of God or of our common ancestors.  A spark of the Divine or of the Big Bang, whichever you prefer.

Each and every one of us came from the same place.

Each and every one of us is precious.

It is not for you, or for any one of us to think or to act otherwise.


Values and Beliefs

Blame and blaming- owning your mistakes

I love fashion even though I do not look like a person that loves fashion. I have always looked at fashion magazines such as Vogue and love going through high end fashion shops. I do not want most of the clothes I see. I would look ridiculous in them. It would be a travesty of what the designer had in mind! I just love that humans come up with this stuff. I suppose it is to do with loving beauty.  I think the Taj Mahal is beautiful. I do not want to live there or own it or have my own place look like it. That would look terrible. So on Tuesday night two things conflated that brought me out to a talk. One was fashion and the other was Torah.

John Galliano, as you probably know, is a brilliant fashion designer. Now, unlike the TV programme ‘Dragon’s Den’, I do not think that because you are successful in one field you will be able to comment on other fields. In the TV programme people who are successful in their business advise others. However, most of the panel have also been very unsuccessful too. They have had ideas and businesses collapse. As my father used to say, ‘not every day is yom tov’ (Not every day is a great day/not everyday goes your way).

John Galliano is a brilliant fashion designer. He is not a brilliant person. I shan’t be asking him about philosophy or theology or science. He fell from grace quite publicly by having a drunken anti-Semitic rant in Paris a few years ago. It got recorded on a mobile phone. It was not his only anti-Semitic drunken rant. He was the head designer at Dior. Quite rightly, they sacked him. He is not above the law or separate from it.

Last night, three synagogues in central London had a talk about clothes and he was one of the speakers. Rabbi Marcus had been instrumental in his, shall we say, rehabilitation. The Rabbi and Galliano had been meeting and talking about Judaism and being a Jew, a complex set of issues that most Jews do not have a handle on, let alone a person who has anti-Semitic rants. So I went along to hear. Fashion and Torah. Some of my favourite things together. Fab.

It had been set up as some talks first and then a panel discussion with him, Galliano. I went to a talk by Maureen Kendler which was entitled ‘A Biblical what not to wear’. It was a great talk. She talked about how we use clothes either to show how we are feeling, to show our roles in society or to deceive. She used incidents in the Bible to illustrate this and how deceptive they can be. Clothes as signifiers. It was very funny and insightful. She said even when you say you are not interested in clothes, you just throw something on, that too is saying something about how you see clothing. Also, when people disguise themselves in stories, for instance the king dressing as a pauper and going out among his people, it always works! Nobody ever says in those stories ‘you remind me of the king’! Clothes as deception. Great stuff from a great speaker.

The panel discussions was less great. Rabbi Marcus gave a very good opening talk on forgiveness. It set a wonderful tone. Unfortunately, it was not kept up and a great opportunity for an insight into a creative mind was also not realised. I wanted to know what fuels his ideas, how much he reacts to what is around him, how he can change styles/houses from Dior to Maison Margiela, what clothes mean for him, how he decides what to wear,  and things of that nature. However, what has prompted me to write this post was to do with blame, rather than the fashion for which he is known and an expert.

Galliano spoke after the Rabbi. He said that he was an alcoholic and an addict. I think that he thought being an addict would excuse his behaviour. He said that after his on camera outburst he had been forced to withdraw (he was sacked from his job at Dior) and had time to reflect on his crazy work load and life. He had returned to God. I was intrigued by his move to a spiritual life and that he now realised he was not in charge, God was. But I found it a bit disingenuous. I don’t know if he had now decided it was all to do with God, that God was responsible for his choices. I think that may have been at the root of what he was saying. I thought that was very disingenuous, first addiction, now God.

You see, I didn’t hear an apology for being a racist. I heard an acceptance, by him and by the Rabbi, of his having said racist comments . But what really annoyed me was that he blamed the alcohol. Naughty wine. But the wine didn’t have those thoughts. The words didn’t come from the wine into his mouth. They can from his thoughts, his brain, into his mouth. The bottle did not make him believe in faries, or demons or that Jews are to blame. The wine merely reduced the filter, the barrier between what we thinks and what we says. The wine made him less inhibited. He said what he thought. Those thoughts were in him, not in the bottle. He blamed the wine. He needed to blame himself. Until you take responsibility for your own feelings and actions you cannot resolve them, you cannot grow up, you are stuck blaming others.

Many years ago I heard a scientist from Ghana talking about environmental issues. He said in Africa they are still blaming the West and slavery and that until Africa owned its own problems it would never grow up and deal with its issues and problems. I thought this a very brave statement. Of course what the West did was terrible. There is still slavery in Africa and the Africans need to own that. Britain has said sorry (Belgian and Spain haven’t). Terrible things were done. But you cannot live like that. A mere 60 years ago the Holocaust happened and the Germans (and others) were responsible. However, Jews and Israel are living now. They talk with Germany and Germans. They do not assume all Germans are Hitler. They have built new homes and wear new clothes and start new lives and new jobs. They do not say when a business fails or they fail an exam or a relationship breaks up  ‘it is the fault of the Nazis’. That would give Hitler more power than he should ever have. When you fail your exams it is you that failed or caused you to fail. Not the whites, Not the blacks, Not the Jews.

Galliano needs to look a lot deeper into himself to find out where his racist stupid comes from and stop blaming the wine. In vino veritas. He said what he thought. Why does he think so much stupid racist stuff in the first place? Where did he learn that? Surely that is where he should look? He tried to absolve himself of his addiction, it too was also not his fault. I wondered whether he was going to blame the Jews for that too. He tried to blame the press as if reporting something caused it ( a sort of cause-effect reversal in time; interesting physics, but I think not). He tried to blame his work load as if that was your fault. He tried to blame everything, like a child. But he had publicly blamed the Jews, while it was him that was being racist.

No Mr Galliano, you are a great designer, but you need to take the blame for your stupid racist remarks. You need to say sorry. The wine didn’t do it.

Values and Beliefs

The British/English Election and Scotland

I really don’t understand the election that has just occurred in Britain.

We had a coalition government between Conservatives (Tories) and Liberal Democrats (LibDem). Many LibDem voters from the previous election were cross that their party went into a coaliton with the Conservatives to form a government. They felt that being with the Tories compromised their beliefs. So this time around, what did they do to change that? Vote LibDem? Vote Labour? No, they voted Conservative. What???? Most former LibDem seats went over to the Conservatives, the party with which the LibDem members said they did not want to be associated. Go figure.

Then we have the Scots and their nationalistic party. This all started with the Scottish Nationalist party saying they wanted to devolve from Britain. There were only about 4 million people eligible to vote for or against this out of a population in Britain of about 100 million. Of that about 1.5 million voted to devolve to a separate Scotland. So they lost. Come the election all of Scotland (a mere 4 million voters) voted for the Scottish Nationalist party (SNP). What???  Then they think they will get more powers from Westminster. Well, this mere 4 million get 56 seats in Westminster Parliament when there are only about 630 seats for the entire 100,000 million others. Now I know we don’t have proportional representation, for which I am thankful,  but that is a lot of seats for very few people. The rest of us have about 1.5 million voters per seat. They have about 50,000 voters per seat. Not really fair. Even a party called UKIP which got 4 million votes only got 1 seat and the whole of Wales which has about 3 million voters, only has a handful of seats,  so why has Scotland got 56 seats? And why did those people who did not want to devolve vote for a nationalistic party? The result is that they have put in the opposite of what SNP says it is, the Tories. Go figure.

By voting SNP they have given the Conservatives an overall majority, which means that if all the other parties got together they still can’t outvote the Tories.  Why would the Conservatives bother with the SNP now? Why would they concede anything? Why would they bother with Scotland, a country with too few people and too many seats except, perhaps, to redraw the election boundaries?

No, I really don’t get it.

Values and Beliefs

I am not Charlie

What terrible events have occurred over the past few days all over the world as well as in Paris. Massacre upon massacre. What end to this killing? If we are all God’s children then the people doing the killing  were killing God.

That is blaspheme.

The Paris shootings have featured a lot in the media. I think these Paris shootings need some unpicking.

Firstly the Charlie Hebdo Shootings.

I do not condone the shootings. I can’t stand the loss of all those people. I thought the final shoot out with the brothers was inevitable and that it was more like a film script, or one of those dumb-ass dvd games, than real life. But real people died and real people had been killed. I think the brothers and many like them have been groomed in a way similar to the way that paedophile rings work. So, amazingly and perhaps because I am an adult, a grown up,  I felt sorry for them. Their lives sound like a car crash. That made them vulnerable to dodgy men with fascistic ideas. BUT, and the is a large BUT, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were insulting and racist.

I do not think the French are renowned for their sense of humour.. They may use satire, which is only a little up the humour scale from sarcasm, which is itself next to bitchiness.

I am pleased that countries such as Egypt have developed satirical magazines even though I personally loathe most satire. I find it not only offensive and in the UK  lavatorial, but childish. But if Egypt or France or Algeria have them and poke fun at their politicians that is fine. That is their right. It shows a mature, grown up politic that can stand being the butt of a joke.

If an Irish person tells an Irish joke that is ok. If a Nigerian tells a Nigerian joke that is ok. If a Muslim tells a Muslim joke that is ok. But if a French person tells a Muslim joke that is not ok. That crosses a line. So you can tell jokes against your own culture or race, but not against others. You can poke fun at nations, other nations then your own, but you need to be careful not to poke fun at ethnicities and cultures. The world has changed. It is not centred at Eton or Harrow. White Western Christian Males do not get to say what is and is not ok anymore. Time to grow up and get a perspective.

As to the butt of this particular joke, I think that there is oversensitivity here, but I understand it. However, I think that Muslims need to realise that a prophet is a man, not a God. There is only one God and that is not Mohammed. As Mohammed is not God, he cannot be blasphemed. I think that needs to be realised.

But it is insulting to make derogatory remarks about him by people of another culture. I think that the insult is felt even more keenly because the joke may not have been targeted only at the prophet, but also at his followers, what used to be called the Mohammedans and is now called Islam. If a Muslim made a rude cartoon about Christ I imagine there would be a huge outcry. I hope Christians would not be stupid enough to kill people over it, but some might and I think many people would feel insulted. The ‘Life of Brian’ film made by the Pythons was made by while Western Christian men. They got a lot of stick for it. Imagine if it had been made by Muslims.

I agree with Freedom of Speech, but what comes out of your mouths has an effect on people. You cannot shirk all responsibility for what you say. Of course we all need to temper the effect things have on us, how we feel about what people say. But we also need to edit what we say. Some things are insulting, hurtful or rude. All of these things you should try to avoid doing. Sometimes we are clumsy in what we say, But this was intentionally insulting people and Charlie Hebdo has to take some responsibility for being crass, insulting and rude.

I should add that recently we have had people making vile random remarks online at people- cyber bullying trolls. They have been prosecuted.

So while I completely condemn the Hebdo shootings I think the cartoonists should not make insulting cartoons about other people’s cultures.

Secondly The Kosher/Cacher Supermarket shootings.

I vividly remember after 9/11 many Muslim people saying that we should not blame all Muslims for the Twin Towers. So what was the Kosher supermarket? Are all Jews to blame? Not again this stupid. Surely it is somebody else’s turn? How about Fiji? I don’t know why Fiji, a random choice, but then racism is random and stupid.  I apologise to any Fijians out there who I hope have a sense of humour and get the point, but surely it is someone else’s turn?

The shootings at the supermarket were racist. Deeply, deeply racist. No excuse. Just racist. Stupid and racist. Got it? They were racist. The gunman was racist. Racism is stupid so the gunman was stupid. Fascist and stupid. Racist. Please do not dress it up as anything else. Please do not hide it in French rights or Palestinian rights or Fijian rights. It is Fascist, Racist Crap. End of.

And for any Muslim out there reading this:

If God chose the Israelites ( the same God, by the way, as the God that Mohammad proclaims) who are you to say He chose wrong? That is blaspheme.