Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Do Not Dishearten

When I read the newspapers I am intrigued by the fact that, if I take into account the dire warnings of all the journalists and column writers, whether in the tabloids or the main stream newspapers, then I might as well pack up my bags. Everything is doom and gloom. We are a society falling apart and patriotism is a concept that is quite wrong to advocate today.

So I decide to take a look at the BBC iPlayer recording of that great British institution - the Last Night of the Proms. And frankly, my doubts and uncertainties are removed, and I see that we do after all have the cement in the bricks.

This is not a collection of older generations trying to hang on to yesteryear. This is a people, truly international as evidenced by the mass of national flags so proudly flying,and making it abundantly clear that they are not about to see our institutions crumble or be brought under threat.

And this is an international movement. An international stirring of the public consciousness that says, 'enough and no more. We have had enough. Now we will sort these matters out and we will bring to account those who have, and those who are attempting to bring our lives into misery'.

We have all been through a terrible 'rucking' and many of us have lost everything, but we haven't lost our self-respect nor the will and the determination to fight back, to rebuild, to reconstruct and to create a better life for our families, our loved ones, and to maintain our principles of freedom and justice.

When President FD Roosevelt was first elected to the office of the President of the United States, he gave a most incredible speech that lifted America out of its black wet blanket of defeatism that had become the hallmark of President Hoover's administration as it attempted to cope with the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. Many attributed to FDR an almost messianic status. But within 100 days the President found himself opposed on almost every level as he attempted to introduce swingeing reforms.

So I am not at all surrpised to read that President Obama is now going through a similar phase. It reminds me of my own work. Initial meetings are great. Promises are made and people have their expectations bolstered. But the moment a delay comes that prevents them from receiving a legacy, or in the case of communities, a delay in introducing the promised reforms and financial packages, human nature swings the pendulum again.

That's life and we have to accept that.

We are now into a third generation that has seen discipline at home, family standards and the like, decline. So it is for parents to seize back the initiative and to make sure that children are not spoilt; that they don't receive every single item they crave. It is a problem that is endemic in the UK. It is serious too, for we have the situation now where teachers and even parents are bullied and chastised by children. But if I read the newspapers I would think it was everyone. Not so.

The vociferous minority will always appear to be the silent majority. And that's where the journalists don't always do us a good service. But then again, journalists need their salaries too; and sometimes, in their desire to be sure they have the editor's support and therefore guaranteed income, they will write stark warnings of near catastrophe.

History is one of the most important subjects in any person's development. But we are finding history dropped by age 13 and in many of our state schools, given scant regard. The findings of a report this week are embarrassing. A nation that forgets its history will be a nation that will abuse its freedom and in time turn upon sections of its community.

So to all parents, I would say, fill the gaps that the teachers are bringing about. Never before has there been such an interest in matters of history as we see today throughout the world unless you are the Taliban. The Taliban cannot read or write in large measure and are intimidated by history. Hence their book burning and refusal to allow women to learn to even read or write. But that is another issue.

Here, be proud to teach your children about your Nation, about your family history, about your forebears. I've always loved history and was recently given John, Duke of Marlborough. It is an incredible study for it takes me deeply into the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries with the result that so many unanswered questions are now being resolved.

Whether we be in Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, the Americas, north and south, or the European and Asian Continents, seek out all that you can find and teach these to your children. In so doing, you'll bring a richness to the family, to the community and to your Nation.

There are many excellent history teachers but labouring under the stench of political correctness. There are also many other history teachers who still subscribe to teaching dates and places. Don't bother, if you're one of those.

Bring the subject alive. Take your children to the museums and galleries, and ensure that they understand their roots and are proud of those roots.

I leave you with this thought. If you can, try and watch both parts of the Last Night of the Proms on BBC iplayer. Listen to Handel. I tell you what, if there's any taliban supporter who thinks they've got the answers, I ask you to remember that these are the people who've said that all music is satanic, and offence to Allah.

When I asked one such supporter this week ,'What would He say?' he was mortified that I should ask that question. 'Ken, it is not right that you try to give a character and personality to Allah, his name be praised. He is above that.'

Oh for goodness sake, go and ride your bike!!

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife
16 September 2009

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Negotiate with the Taliban. Are We Mad?!

Last month the Foreign Secretary, so the media reported, suggested that the way forward was to negotiate with the more moderate elements of the Taliban. At the time I found that hard to swallow, especially given the rise in fatalities of those killed in action.

The deaths continue and today's newspapers report a growing desire by the people of Britain to withdraw from Afghanistan, or as the tabloids prefer to report so as to pull on the heart strings and thereby harness popular opinion, "bring our troops home".

I fully understand the desire to do so, and part of me wants to shout from the highest rooftops that we must do this immediately.

But we cannot and should not.

Consider the following extract from Asne Seierstrad's excellent work, 'The Bookseller of Kabul':

I also wore the burka to discover for myself what it is like to be an Afghan woman; what it feels like to squash into the chock-a-block back rows reserved for women, when the rest of the bus is half empty, what it feels like to squeeze into the boot of a taxi because a man is occupying the back seat, what it feels like to be stared at as a tall and attractive burka and receive your first burka-compliment from a man in the street.
How in time I started to hate it. How it pinches the head and causes headaches, how difficult it is to see anything through the grille. How enclosed it is, how little air gets in, how quickly you start to perspire, how all the time you have to be aware of where you are walking because you cannot see your feet, what a lot of dirt it picks up, how dirty it is, how much in the way. How liberated you feel when you get home and take it off.

And consider further:

Any books portraying living things, be they human or animal, were torn from the shelves and tossed on the fire. Yellow pages, innocent postcards, and dried-out covers from old reference books were sacrificed to the flames. Amidst the children round the bonfire stood the foot soldiers of the religious police, carrying whips, long sticks and Khalashnikovs. These men considered anyone who loved pictures or books, sculptures or music, dance, film or free thought enemies of society...The Taliban regarded debate as heresy and doubt as sin. Anything other than Koran-swotting was unnecessary, even dangerous. When the Taliban came to power in Kabul in the autumn of 1996 the ministries were emptied of professionals and replaced by mullahs. From the central bank to the universities - the mullahs controlled everything. Their goal was to re-create a society like the one the Prophet Muhammad had lived in on the Arab peninsula in the seventh century. Even when the Taliban negotiated with foreign oil companies, ignorant mullahs sat around the negotiating table, lacking any technical expertise...They shunned scientific debate, whether conducted in the West or in the Muslim world. Their manifesto was above all a few pathetic arguments about how people should dress or cover themselves, how men should respect the hour of prayer, and women be separated from the rest of society. They were not conversant with the history of Islam or of Afghanistan, and had no interest in either.

In this first decade of the 21st Century, it is frightening to find that religion still brings untold misery to millions of people; death and destruction.

I am proud, immensely proud, of my many Muslim friends, my friends from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India respectively. We have great debates and some of the more strident advocates of strict religious codes seem to overlook the fact that such debate is forbidden in some Islamic regimes, whereas here in the UK, we have a freedom of speech that, as I have said many times before, is an unachievable dream for millions.

We should not take this for granted though.

I am angry and distressed that our troops are losing their lives; but we cannot withdraw. Neither can we negotiate with these benighted people. We have to, and will, defeat them as surely as day follows night.

We at home MUST do all we can to back our troops, and the BBC reports this week are at last concentrating on prime time television in alerting and educating the public.

Seventy years ago we were forced to declare war on an equally evil regime and the price was the loss of 56 million lives over the following six years. But we had to stand and fight and refuse to surrender. Just because the front line is thousands of miles away does not mean that it is less important, vital or crucial to this Nation's survival. The world is a small place. And we must do all we can to safeguard our liberty and thereby give hope to those who can only dream of such liberty.

Kenneth T Webb
Liverpool CityLife

12 September 2009