Hillsborough

96

It has taken me 28 years to write about Hillsborough. Whenever the subject was raised it made me angry, mainly because I’ve never understood why it had taken 27 years to state the obvious – 96 deaths were caused by, at best, extreme police stupidity. The lies and cover-up that followed were of the most obvious criminality. I doubt very much that anyone will ever pay for it.

The reason I was surprised by the cover-up was that the tragedy was all so public. The whole disaster, aided and abetted by appalling police inadequacy, was on television for all to see – several million people must have seen it. I taped what should have been the game on video. I later wiped it. Why did it take 27 years for me to see those images again? Why did nobody ever show the film of what happened? It has always existed. Why was it hidden?

Too many people were herded into a fenced in pen. This caused many to be crushed and trampled. The whole situation could have been alleviated by opening the gates onto the pitch. Instead the police stood and watched as 96 people were crushed to death and many more injured.

A lie was invented at about 3.45. The lie was to cover up a chief of police’s lack of action and his force’s dreadful incompetency. The lie was that Liverpool fans had rushed a gate, poured into the stadium in their hundreds crushing those already there to death.

The chief of police froze. His only action was to position a row of police on the half-way line to prevent hooliganism. This was while people were dying. People can freeze. It’s a tragedy, but it happens and is forgivable. What is unforgiveable are the invented lies and the heartless and callous disregard for the bereaved families.

Moira Stewart dutifully repeated the lie on the later BBC news. In other words: Liverpool supporters killed themselves. She must have known she was repeating lies but BBC employees will repeat any old rubbish they’re told to repeat. People preferred the lie. After all they were football fans, hooligans; and most of all: working class. Support the police, blame the workers.

XXX

The lie was embellished: Liverpool fans urinated on brave police, they were all drunk, they stole wallets from the dead. Incredibly people believed this nonsense. This might have been understandable had not the whole tragedy been shown live on TV – the police were lying. Look at the film: that’s what happened! Why did so many believe those stupid lies?

The idiot celebrity, Terry Wogan, smugly described the deaths as self-inflicted. He once shouted at an audience that vociferously disagreed with him: “Get back to your hovels”. He also charged £5000 for his appearances on Children in Need, until he was rumbled. His popularity is one of life’s mysteries.

The police interviewed all the families of the dead. Completely lacking any sympathy, they told every family that their child, spouse was drunk. To one family who told them their child did not drink they replied: “You’ll be telling us he was a virgin next”. Inhuman behaviour.

The Taylor Report, soon after, exonerated the fans and blamed the police. But the media preferred the lie, incredibly the public did too. One fan was asked hundreds of times if he really urinated on the police. He replied: “Would you do it?” I wrote a letter to The Independent in 2011 voicing my thoughts about the police and Moira Stewart. I received an avalanche of replies, all criticising me. “You must have been there”; “You must have lost someone there” were the polite replies; “How dare you attack our wonderful police?” “How dare you attack the lovely Moira Stewart?” were more common. These are the same people now pretending sympathy for the dead and their families. I’m afraid they are the most hopeless idiots. Nothing can be done for them. They will believe any nonsense the state tells them to believe.

The police present on the day all had their written reports changed. The honest ones had any slight criticism of the police erased. There were some decent police, those few who helped the fans; most of those had the decency to leave the police, some had nervous breakdowns, broken by the sheer horror of what they witnessed. It was mainly the fans who helped, the police did precious little.

The final case against the police took far longer than it should have. The police maintained their lies to the last, prolonging the suffering. After 27 years they still could not admit what had been clear on TV in 1989. Why did that film not surface again for 27 years? The BBC must have known it existed, every TV station must have known, every newspaper must have known. How did film that proved police guilt, showed they were lying, stay hidden for so long?

The BBC, to their credit, finally made a fine documentary showing what really happened. It should have been made 28 years ago and would have avoided years and years of suffering, suffering only made possible by dozens of corrupt police, officials and a compliant, cowardly media.

The policeman or men who invented the lies should be jailed for life, along with Kelvin Mackenzie who repeated the lies in the Sun, a disreputable comic. All those police who interviewed and insulted the grieving families should be jailed for 10 years.

The massively stupid and infantile public who believed this nonsense for 27 years should be sent to an island for dim-witted people: Thick Island perhaps, where their brainlessness can only damage their unintelligent selves.

chriscuba-001

Equivocation

“These doubtful speeches were used much in the old times by their false prophets, as appeareth by the oracles of Delphos and of the Sybil’s prophecies devised by the religious persons of those days to abuse the superstitious people, and to encumber their busy brains with vain hope or vain fear.”

The Art of English Poesy   

George Puttenham (16th century).

Equivocation: The art of saying one thing but meaning another.

bin-001

George Puttenham was writing about equivocation, an art he considered historical. He also considered it dangerous and wicked, a way of telling lies (sinful) while appearing not to. Shakespeare used much equivocation in his plays, although the word hardly existed then. Shakespeare portrayed equivocation as entertainment, as a way of providing information about the world and its people; while no angel Shakespeare was certainly not wicked. At that time equivocation had fiercely anti-Catholic connotations; the authorities were worried about the way Catholics used equivocation to deny their beliefs or that they were hiding priests. You could tell the authorities, for example, that you were taking dinner at a friend’s house while not mentioning that you were attending a Catholic mass. You were not lying but you were concealing the truth.

Equivocation was a rare and scholarly term, appearing in only a few books in the sixteenth century, mostly religious works and never in a play, poem or story. Because Shakespeare was such a gifted writer, wonderful words seemingly just flowing from him without thought, equivocation came naturally to him and his characters. All actors equivocate; it is entertaining, it is human, it can be clever, it can be wicked. We would be bored into slumber if all actors spoke honestly and always spoke the truth. The first time that Shakespeare used the actual word (although he many times used the deed) was in Hamlet, at the turn of the century, during the grave scene with Yoric’s skull. In answer to the Gravedigger’s clever but maddening replies, Hamlet tells Horatio:

How absolute the knave is! We must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us.

Hamlet means that they must speak literally or the Gravedigger will continue with his evasive replies. Shakespeare is being humorous here; later he would use the word in a more sinister fashion. Most people thought that equivocation meant ambiguous; as late as 1605 Francis Bacon defined it as such in his Advancement of Learning. But by 1606, familiarity with the word was almost universal. It was no longer a neutral word, it was now commonly thought to mean concealing the truth by saying one thing while deceptively thinking another. Shakespeare used equivocation as an action and a word to great effect in Macbeth, of the same year.

01v/11/arve/G2582/016

Although the Earl of Salisbury wrote of “that most strange and gross doctrine of equivocation” which would “tear in sunder all the bonds of human conversation”, and should be rooted out from society, Shakespeare would have understood that efforts to eliminate equivocation were hopeless and naive. Salisbury, the King – everybody – equivocated whether they were conscious of it or not. Equivocation was life’s most common sin – lying.

Shakespeare was subtle with his use of words, and equivocation was not always obvious. Though the word originated in its present use with Catholics using it to deny their beliefs, it soon became much more common with writers. One could say a King equivocated without actually accusing him of lying. Equivocation is a sophisticated word, suitable for a King and his courtiers to use.  Today a politician can say “I may have used slight equivocation on that point” and most people will not even understand that he/she has actually admitted to lying.

The action of equivocating had been in common use for as long as humans have had language. Augustus convinced the Romans that they were living in a free and fair democracy, although they lived under a ruthless dictatorship. Now, in the UK people are told that they live in a democracy, but they are presented with a choice between two almost identical parties who will merely preserve the status quo, likewise the USA. and many other countries. I live in Cuba where daily the TV convinces the people that they live in a wonderful free and fair society, but it’s a dictatorship with some good points. It’s not free and fair. Today politicians and advertisers (the main culprits) use it constantly. I can mostly ignore politicians but advertising is ubiquitous, stupid and wicked; it is impossible to ignore. Equivocation, even if it was once an art, is now the “gross doctrine” that Salisbury feared.

There is no advertising in Cuba, apart from the Cubans advertising themselves: their revolution, their system, their sportsmen and women – everything Cuban; they do not advertise commercial products. The only other place I know of where TV doesn’t advertise is Britain, with the BBC, but a significant section of the population would like to destroy it, as that section worldwide would destroy anything precious.

 

ad

 

Even in Cuba I cannot escape advertising. We have satellite TV, where my woman watches the telenovelas and I watch the football. I thought advertising in England was extremely stupid but the US satellite channels are much more obviously dumb, just a medium for advertising, rather than a medium for entertainment. Programmes are interrupted every ten minutes with the dimmest adverts imaginable, merely a method for repeating names hundreds, thousands of times so that you will be unable to forget them; there is no humour, not very much thought – just the repetition of brand names and phone numbers – and in many, many hours of programming there is not even one minute of intelligence on show. Coke now transposes its logo over the crowd during the football matches – distracting and mind-numbing – as it is supposed to be.

I have found similar programming in East Asia but particularly the United States, the country that has been bombarded more than any other. It has affected even many of their decent writers, whom write of drinking a coke when they really mean something else. Coke has been so ruthlessly advertised for over a century, that taking a drink now means taking a coke to many, many people, such is the effect of constant brainwashing. I don’t even like Coke. I think it’s horrible, but am prepared to believe that some people like it and are not just influenced by the advertising. Hoover became an actual adjective thanks to that company’s successful promotions.

During a long life I have refused to believe that people can be affected by advertising because it is so simple-minded, but of course they are. They believe soap characters are real, and they believe advertising even more if an actor or celebrity equivocates and pretends that he/she uses a particular product (for a large amount of money). One must assume from this that at least seventy per cent of world’s population (particularly the USA’s) is irredeemably stupid; they buy cars, labour saving devices, clothes, tablets and phones that they do not need, and will  soon be persuaded to replace them.

Blair-Iraq

Graham Greene said that “In any government there grows a hideous establishment of stupid men”. That is true, but unfortunately those stupid men represent a very large mass of even stupider people whose “busy brains they encumber with vain hope or vain fear.” These stupid men, big swinging dicks (an apt phrase) rule the world. While once harbouring vague thoughts that human beings will eventually sort themselves out, I tend to agree now with Voltaire, that “men are mad, and anyone who thinks they can be cured is even madder.

The consumer society does not work; it will destroy itself sooner than you think. Who will stop it? Not the public. One cannot underestimate the stupidity of the public. The public is a big fat idiot. Being naturally non-violent, I would not go quite so far as Bill Hicks, who requested that all those in the public relations/advertising industry kill themselves, but I would like to put them all on an island where they can sell each other junk, and not pollute the world.

Drink Coke. You know it makes sense.

chriscuba-001

 

 

 

Shopping

book-001

“Born in Leicester in 1946, she says her generation was one of the last to truly be free. She would often play in abandoned buildings and pick fruit without the concern for today’s myriad dangers.”

Sue Townsend. Author of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾.

 

Born five years later than Sue Townsend, I did what I liked as a child: played football in the street, played on railway lines, walked through tunnels, played on private land, swam in private lakes, stole fruit and much, much more. Not one person that I knew was hurt seriously. Nobody had any money. We never noticed.

chris1

What do today’s children do? They stare into screens on their phone, their tablet, their computer and their TV. What do these screens do? They sell them stuff. Do they play? No, they don’t.

 

Their parents are children too. They grew up with similar, less advanced, stuff, but they too are utterly brainwashed. What do they do? They shop…and shop and shop and shop. Must have the latest car, must have the new reg so everyone can see it and think what a successful person I am. I am skinting myself but that doesn’t matter – I have a new car. And it’s one of those BIG cars, four wheel drive, an SUV, one of those really expensive cars that are not really very safe, much less safe than smaller cars, and a nuisance to everybody else, but who cares? I have one and it’s new, for six whole months, then I shall have to get another new one. You see, a car is no longer a means of getting from A to B. It’s a status symbol for idiots.

 

The kids buy jeans with holes. You can’t make the holes yourself? We did, years ago. So the marketers steal the idea (as they always do) and sell it back to the kids. But they wouldn’t be so stupid as to pay £100 for jeans with holes would they? Oh yes they would. And fades too, we used to do that, it’s easy. No thanks say the morons, we’d rather pay £100 for them. It’s my stupid parents’ money anyway.

 

Just look at all those sofas. They’re the same as last week’s sofas and last month’s sofas. Got to have one. And there’s £200 off (of course there is) and it’s blue; the one we have is grey. And the sale ends tomorrow! (of course it does).

chris2

Must have the latest phone. Why? Because all my friends will have it. Hmm. And it will sell me stuff quicker. What? It’s out of date already? Get me the latest. Must have the latest.

 

Must have the latest fashion. Can’t you be original, be different? Create something yourself from a charity shop or an independent shop? What’s independent? Oh dear.

 

What are you doing on Saturday? Sunday? Shopping, it’s cool.

 

I’ve just been on holiday. Where did you go. Africa. Whereabouts in Africa? Don’t know. Stayed by the pool.

 

What’s on TV? Adverts, increasingly moronic adverts. I like adverts. What were you watching? Celebrity Big Brother. Oh.

 

Big Brother is a term created by George Orwell. Did you know that? Who’s Grant Orwell?

 

Did you know the world is slowly being destroyed? That we are polluting it with waste? Much of it from over-shopping? Er…

 

Did you know the most beautiful animals in the world are becoming extinct? That we murder them for clothes, for ivory, for fur?  Er…

 

Did you know your clothes were made by children earning fifty pence a day? Er…

 

Did you know that 85 people in the world have as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion? Er…

 

All because of shopping.

 

All because economies run on shopping. And massive overproduction. And persuading idiots to keep buying and buying and buying. New cars when they’re not needed. Sofas that are not needed. Clothes that are not needed. Computers that are not needed. Phones that are not needed.

 

And holes, Jesus, you pay money for holes. You literally spend money on nothing.

 

How can you be taken in by these stupid adverts? They’re utterly brainless. Surely you don’t believe them do you? How can you? Nobody could believe that stuff.

 

Can you think for yourself? Er…

 

Is your brain full of the stupid stuff that your phone vomits out? Er…

 

Do you have a brain?

 

Er…

 

“He tries to tell himself that all this…the warehouses, the shops and banks – is real, but it feels like an elaborate pantomime, a sham.”

 

Ian McGuire: The North Water.

chriscuba-001

 

 

 

What is an intellectual?

Noam Chomsky dates intellectualism to 1898 and the Dreyfus affair. A Manifesto of the Intellectuals fashioned by the Dreyfusards was inspired by Emile Zola’s open letter to France’s president condemning the framing of Dreyfus for treason and the subsequent military cover-up. This created an image of the intellectual as a defender of justice, confronting power with courage and integrity. But they were not generally seen that way.

chomsky

The majority of the so-called educated classes, including several prominent figures of the Académie Franςais, considered the Dreyfusards “anarchists of the lecture-platform.” Ferdinand Brunetiére thought the very word intellectual was “one of the most ridiculous eccentricities of our time – I mean the pretension of raising writers, scientists, professors and philologists to the rank of supermen.” In other words, he was frightened of them; Dreyfus was innocent – the intellectuals were merely telling the truth. So were those criticising the Dreyfusards intellectuals? I think not.

 

Prominent intellectuals on all sides enthusiastically supplied justifications for their country’s part in World War I:

In Germany:

“…have faith in us! Believe that we shall carry on this war to the end as a civilised nation, to whom the legacy of a Goethe, a Beethoven, and a Kant, is just as sacred as its own hearth and homes.”

In the USA:

“…effective and decisive work on behalf of the war has been accomplished by…a class which must be comprehensively but loosely described as the intellectuals.”

Intellectuals in the USA believed they were entering the war:

“…under the influence of a moral verdict reached, after the utmost deliberation by the more thoughtful members of the community.”

These intellectuals were the victims of a campaign by the British Ministry of Information which sought to:

“…direct the thought of most of the world, but particularly to direct the thought of American progressive intellectuals who might help to whip a pacifist country into war fever.”

 

Would you regard people who joyously recommended entering a war, individuals who generally did not risk their own lives for one second, as intellectuals? I wouldn’t, but let’s continue…

swallow

 

Not everyone agreed with the war. Bertrand Russell, Eugene Debs, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht did not agree, and like Zola fourteen years before, were sentenced to prison. Debs was punished with particular spite and malevolence. For doubting the veracity of President Wilson’s “…war for democracy and human rights” he was jailed for ten years. Wilson denied him amnesty after the war, but President Harding did finally relent. This, it seems to me, is what happens to true intellectuals: Speak against power in any country and you will be persecuted. Depending on the country, the best an intellectual can hope for is persecution – elsewhere it will be jail, torture and death, probably all three.

 

So are those who constantly praise the state intellectuals? No, they are not. If any of them were capable of being intellectuals, which is unlikely, they have forfeited any right to the title by being corrupt, by pretending that lies are the truth, by supporting mass-murder and much, much more. In the past these “intellectuals” supported the burning of people at the stake, hanging, drawing and quartering, slavery and child labour. They are Pharisees, supporters of whatever power happens to rule, non-thinkers and massive idiots.

 

There is no doubt that Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron all would have enthusiastically supported all the evils of the past: black people are not really human so we can treat them abominably, children of the poor are fit only for work, the poor are not really people are they, not like us “the elite” – elite? Are they really? Of course, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, the Bush’s, Clinton and Obama are just the same, probably much worse.

Adam Smith described the USA as the “masters of mankind” following a “vile maxim”: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people.” Are followers of this most simplistic and stupid philosophy intellectuals? The original intent of the Constitution was, according to historian Gordon Wood, “…intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period, by delivering power to a better sort of person and barring those who were not rich, well born, or prominent from exercising political power.” Were the authors of the Constitution intellectuals? No, they were rich people of low intelligence. The main qualification for “a better sort of person” was hypocrisy and greed.

books

Nelson Mandela was only removed from the official State Department terrorist list in 2008. Twenty years earlier he was the criminal leader of one of the world’s “more notorious terrorist groups,” according to the Pentagon. I wonder which intellectual or intellectuals made that decision, and then later decided that he was a hero fit to be fawned over by brainless celebrities.

 

A week after the fall of the Berlin Wall, six leading Latin American intellectuals, all Jesuit priests, had their heads blown off on the direct orders of the Salvadoran high command. The act was carried out by an elite battalion armed and trained by Washington. The battalion had already left a dreadful trail of blood and terror. What intellectuals took the decision to murder thousands of people who merely wanted a slightly better standard of living? Not communism, not socialism – just a vaguely better life. Were the perpetrators intellectuals at all, or are they, in fact, the constant murderers of intellectuals who don’t agree with them?

 

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy, a well respected intellectual and admired president, made the decision to shift the mission of the militaries of Latin America from “hemispheric defence” to “internal security” – in other words, war against the domestic population, if they raised their heads. Charles Maechling Jr, who led internal defence planning from 1961 to 1966 described the result of Kennedy’s decision as “…a shift from tolerance of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military to direct complicity in their crimes.” The US supported and acted in “..the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.

 

In Colombia, former minister of foreign affairs, Alfredo Vázquez Carrizosa, wrote that Kennedy “…took great pains to transform our regular armies into death squads,” and “...it is their right to fight and exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment.

 

This must be, by necessity, a fairly brief account of the crimes of self-elected intellectuals and the persecution by them of true intellectuals. It is by no means confined to the USA, although as the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, they do have a hand in most things. I have hardly touched upon the role of writers in these crimes. Two English writers do spring to mind. The first is David Aaronovitch who wrote an article in 2003 wondering when the “weapons of mass destruction” would turn up. He wrote:

At the United Nations in February, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, presented evidence claiming that there were mobile laboratories and showing clear signs that the Iraqis had moved material to escape inspection from UN teams. Put together, all this was argued as constituting a clear breach of UN resolutions that therefore required urgent action.

These claims cannot be wished away in the light of a successful war. If nothing is eventually found, I – as a supporter of the war – will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere.

He “…will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again.” Well, I’m sure he does go on believing, as a paid Pharisee, but it is quite shocking that he believed anything in the past from either government. And I think he genuinely does, and did, believe them. Some Pharisees are cynics – they don’t really believe the nonsense they write – but I believe Aaronovitch does truly believe. It is rather sad.

He concludes his article with:

At this moment, when the authorities are telling the truth and need the people to trust them, no one does. So I repeat, those weapons had better be there.

Oh dear, and one million civilians dead too.

In Owen Jones excellent book, The Establishment, Aaronovitch describes himself as one of the “elite”. When I had stopped laughing, I realised that these pseudo-intellectuals really do believe they are an elite. Because they are paid well for telling lies, I suppose. I can think of no other reason. They are rich, so in their tiny brains they see that as success. Sad indeed.

The other writer is James Delingpole. He is a climate change denier; there are many of those, of course. I’m sure he knows that the threats of global disaster are real, but business leaders are conducting a propaganda campaign to convince people that anthropogenic global warming is a liberal hoax, and they pay very well. And Delingpole will do anything for money. Business people know full well how grave the threat is but they must maximise short-term profit and market share. If they don’t, someone else will. Delingpole is always willing to help.

Apart from being a denier, I’m not sure what he does. He doesn’t like the BBC, so constantly finds fault. He would prefer it was saturated with mindless adverts and awful programmes. He doesn’t like the NHS. He uses it, then criticises it in his columns, which is rather horrible.  He praises the awful Game of Thrones regularly. He also praised a French science-fiction thing that really was unredeemably awful. And that’s about it.

I suppose it’s a good living for a man with a room temperature IQ, but his constant jealousy of successful acquaintances and yearning for more cash does grate a bit. He is a splendid example of the low-grade Pharisee, of which there are many, but having encountered him fairly regularly, I mention him here.

An intellectual he is not!

chriscuba-001

The Way We Live

This is, to most people an insignificant story. I first learned of it in on September 23rd 2015. It made me angry at the time. I then discovered that it kept making me angry, kept coming back to me, partly because everybody else was ignoring it. In the grand scheme of things it is of no consequence, but to me, in its unique, corrupt way, it somehow typifies what is wrong with this country and much of the world.

 

In 2010 two students, the Hilliard brothers, were accused of violent disorder by The Metropolitan Police at a demonstration against student fees in London. They were charged with dragging a policeman off of his horse and beating him. David Cameron, decided to assist the police and gain some publicity by suggesting the boys should “face the full force of the law.” The full force of the law here would have been a seven year prison sentence.

justice

Just pause here to ponder what a seven year sentence would mean to these boys: their lives ruined, four years or so among largely unsympathetic criminals, career prospects nil, disgrace for their family and a memory, a daily reminder, of the English justice system for the rest of their lives.

 

Now, what actually happened? The officer in question had not secured his saddle properly and while he was pulling Christopher Hilliard’s hair so hard he nearly left the floor – he fell off his horse. The Hilliard brothers were then set on by at least four policemen who battered them with truncheons and kicked them. For the crime of being assaulted they were charged with assaulting the officers, facing a long term in prison and a difficult life ahead.

They didn’t do anything, had committed no crime.

As The Guardian stated:

David Cameron himself risked influencing the outcome of the legal process when he publicly drew attention to the case, insisting that police had been “dragged off horses and beaten”. The reality is that young people have not only been denied access to education and jobs through the abolition of the education maintenance allowance and the rise in tuition fees, but they are also being injured, demonised and criminalised when they protest about it.

You see, the two students had spent two years amassing a vast amount of footage of the incident. You can imagine how hard they had to work to get it. The footage showed the officer pulling Hilliard’s hair, it showed his saddle slipping because he hadn’t secured it, it showed the police all around descending on the boys and viciously beating them. Jennifer Hilliard, the boys’ mother, who has tirelessly protested their innocence thought Cameron owed the family an apology, “I think there was an assumption of guilt” she said – incredibly mild in the circumstances.

Christopher Hilliard said:

“I used to have a very positive view, now it’s a very negative view. Through all these things that have happened I certainly don’t trust the police. We were told by our lawyers that the likelihood of us being found not guilty, due to the number of police witnesses, was extraordinarily low (8 police witnesses lied). It’s only due to the fact that we were able with our mum to put together a lot of data, a lot of video footage for the trial, that we were able to be found not guilty through a lot of hard work. But, yes, I frequently worried that I was going to go to prison, that I was going to be incarcerated for something that was not of our doing at all.”

The comments from the family are incredibly tolerant. They seem like a nice, normal, law-abiding family. But imagine if they hadn’t done all that work to clear themselves; imagine if they had just gone with system. The eight lying police officers would have been believed and what was meant to happen would have happened – seven years in prison. This was not an isolated case; there have been at least eleven acquittals by jury since the demos. A lot of police misbehaviour followed by lies.

Ah, but now you’re being filmed.

secrets

The brothers were awarded £25,000 each in September 2015. David Cameron, of course, didn’t apologise. It’s a paltry sum, but what do ordinary people want with money? – money goes to people like David Cameron, and they keep it and grow it. Cameron will have forgotten all about it. The Met said:

“The Metropolitan police service has settled civil claims brought by Christopher Hilliard and Andrew Hilliard following their arrest during a protest on 9 December 2010. The claimants have also been given a written apology confirming that they should not have been arrested and expressing regret for the distress and injury suffered.”

 Hmm…

 

Cameron didn’t care if the story was true; he didn’t care that two young men’s lives would be ruined. He foolishly jumped on the bandwagon at the wrong time. It should have caused a scandal. People really should be protesting, demanding answers, but they don’t care – too busy shopping for rubbish and playing with their phones and gadgets.

The story, as far as I can discover, was reported nowhere of significance. I discovered it on Channel 4 news. Credit to them for covering it, but they did only give it two minutes, as though they were reluctant to report but thought they’d better, being a radical news programme and all. The BBC, ITV and Sky didn’t report it. Some minor educational papers reported it. The Guardian reported some of the later stuff. Some newspapers reported the compensation award (always interested in money). It does make one wonder about our media. Why the almost universal lack of reportage? They ALL reported the untrue inciting incident. Do you think they might be telling us what they want us to know, rather than what we ought to know?

 

And what of the Metropolitan Police? If they hadn’t been filmed and watched, several innocent people would be in prison. Now, I have nothing against the police. I have had dealings with them and always found them pretty decent. They have a job to do after all. But the police wheeled out at demonstrations are a different breed. They are the protectors of the system, the protectors of the money. They will do whatever they’re told. They are increasingly better armed; they are the military arm of the government. They are very violent people, itching to go out and hit someone. They have no conscience or finer feelings about lying and locking innocent people up for years. They probably enjoy it.

polis

I know it’s not so bad here as in other places. In Iraq, Iran, Russia, China and many other places it is much worse; they will kill you for standing in the wrong place, but do not believe that our police wouldn’t do the same thing if they were allowed to.

 

There have been no significant demonstrations since 2010. The police did their job. These people are merely defenders of the status quo. It is alarming how many people support them, defend them, even admire them – startlingly stupid people.

 

But for those of you with a functioning brain – wake up. It is getting worse and will be game-over before you know it. This was a comparatively minor incident, but it typifies a million more, a billion more. Even if you only send an email – do something.

chriscuba-001

Somebody (Please) Say Something

bin-001

I wrote a blog in July 2014 suggesting that despite the plethora of news and print everywhere, nobody was really saying anything, at least nothing of interest, importance or even relating much to the truth. It was called Somebody Say Something, the title of an article written by John Lanchester ten years ago. He was pleading then for someone to say something (of some relevance). I recently listened to a recording of interviews with American Writers, a CD I’ve listened to perhaps fifty times. I never tire of it or anything to do with writers. They seem to me to be people who think about the world and have interesting things to say, not all of them of course, but any vaguely serious writers. Listening to American Writers I was struck by how relevant their opinions were and are. The CD reminded me of Lanchester’s article – if people weren’t saying much in 2004, they are saying much less now. There is plenty being said of course, but how much really addresses matters of substance?

books

These interviews are from the 60, 70s and 80s and most of the writers are now dead. It doesn’t matter. Their words are as important today as they were then. Is anybody today saying anything of significance? Here is

 

William Burroughs in 1964:

Love plays little part in my mythology. I feel that what we call love is largely a fraud, a mixture of sentimentality and sex which has been systematically degraded and vulgarised by the virus power. The virus power manifests itself in many ways: in the construction of nuclear weapons, in the creation of political systems which are aimed at curtailing inner freedom. It manifests itself in the extreme drabness of everyday life in western society. It manifests itself in the ugliness and vulgarity that we see on every street.

Toni Morrison in 1982

That business about lazy. People doing four jobs are supposedly lazy. I remember working in houses for white people. It’s very difficult if you move in somebody’s dirt not to recognise that they are both lazy and dirty. I am the one who is assumed to be both those things. If a proper economic study is done of this country, it must include the fact that they had 200 years of free labour, which made them a successful country in one eighth of the time they would normally have to spend.

Henry Miller in 1979

Sex has no pull anymore. Everybody is immersed in it like a hot bath. Therefore there is no ecstasy, no surprise, no enjoyment. It’s as if they were doing exercises.

Saul Bellow in 1977

They are intellectual professionals in the study of literature. Their purpose is to convert novels, poems, plays into subject matter. This is where the damage comes; they make discourse of it. It wasn’t originally there to make discourse of. Modern novels weren’t taught in the universities of the 19th century. Anyone who has received a decent education should be able to pick up a novel by themselves and read it.

IMG_0369

Mary McCarthy in 1960

I think the world is pretty terrible and somebody has to speak up. I think there is a general conspiracy of silence about what goes on. All the stuff that’s piped in, including probably this programme with me on it, that daily cant that pours from the radio, the newspapers, advertising, education and everybody simply endures it. Somebody should get up and just shut it off.

Eudora Welty in 1985

Something has been troubling me a lot when I go round and talk to students. It is that very intelligent people don’t know the difference between fiction and non-fiction and they don’t assume there is any.

Arthur Miller in 1968

The reality was depression. The reality was the whole thing coming down in a heap of wood and cinders. What happens when everybody has a refrigerator? What happens when everybody has a car? It’s got to end.

Gore Vidal in 1978

With politics and religion, one is the mirror of the other and there is no answer in either case.


Except for Toni Morrison, these writers are now dead. None would be pleased with the way society has gone. If Mary McCarthy thought there was too much daily cant then, her head would explode now. Why must we be taught literature? We can teach ourselves and enjoy it ourselves. The virus power attempts more and more to curtail inner freedoms. To Eudora Welty I would point out that those students were certainly NOT ‘very intelligent people’. She was being far too polite. Arthur Miller knew in 1949 that it all has to end – we’re much closer now. Sex is merely an advertising scam.

This is just a small sample of what the writers had to say about their world. I can thoroughly recommend the CD to anyone interested (British Library: The Spoken Word archive). They also recorded a British Writers CD which is almost as good, including JB Priestly, William Golding and many others.

I shall continue to read biographies and listen to recordings of writers. They seem to me to be the only people recognising what is actually happening. Some care, some don’t. Some would like to change the world, others think it unchangeable or they would change a small part of it, usually their own tiny part of it. No matter, through the ages, from Homer to Dickens and beyond, they all have something to say. They lead interesting lives and find different ways of communicating their ideas, as did Hunter S Thompson in The Rum Diary: escaping from the Luce empire with its ‘slick drivers and jingo parrots’ spreading  ‘like a piss puddle’ to Puerto Rico where a tourist ship arrives ‘from somewhere in the middle of America, some flat little town’ with another ‘fearsomely alike’ group, consisting of ‘shapeless women in wool bathing suits and dull-eyed men with hairless legs who should never have been allowed to leave their local Elks Club.’

 chriscuba-001

Who says stuff like that anymore?

 

Reviewing books….

booksI haven’t written anything for a while, not because I lack the desire, but because there are so many ideas bouncing around that I’ve failed to keep hold of a single line of thought long enough to turn it into words. Frustrating, although at least I don’t live with a dull mind. Anyway, one theme keeps returning; it’s here again today, so I’m going to write about it before people forget I exist: A book I published in 2012, two other books and the reviews they received.

Caliente, an account of my time in Cuba has sold around one thousand copies, I haven’t kept track, and perhaps the same again in electronic format. I occasionally receive small boosts to my bank account due to people, I assume worldwide, buying it. It started as a diary, then when people liked bits and pieces, over many years it became a book. The story at the time seemed to me so alive and interesting that I had to tell it. With much help from a friend, I manfully did my best to promote it, but without a massive or even moderate publicity budget (it was truly tiny), I stood little chance of achieving big sales.

I still get emails from people who read and enjoyed Caliente, mostly travellers. At the beginning, when it was published, I got eight or so positive reviews on Amazon from friends, the other reviews, good or bad, are from genuine readers that I don’t know. I suppose everybody, even established authors, must get friends to review their books, and one thing one must always do on Amazon is try to separate the friendly from the genuine.

After a year I abandoned the publicity trail and started a novel. I have finished my novel twice and am now beginning a third rewrite which will be much longer. If I do finish it, it will almost certainly not sell. I don’t care. Some success would be good but it isn’t essential. I’m proud of Caliente and I will be proud of my novel. I appreciate the sales of Caliente and I like getting appreciative emails. I am not bitter in the slightest, but I do wonder about the reviewing process in Britain (I assume it’s the same in the USA).

In making my point I’ve chosen two books that can take a little criticism. Both have been fantastically reviewed and achieved significant sales: The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers (2012) and In The Light Of What We Know, Zia Haider Rahman (2014). The Yellow Birds is written by a veteran of the Gulf War, so has immediate kudos which people will naturally not easily criticise. On Amazon it has dozens of reviews from famous authors, actors, broadcasters and newspapers; inside its covers are printed a choice of the best reviews. Hilary Mantel (whom I admire) described it as ‘A masterpiece of war literature and a classic’; Damien Lewis, star of Homeland, thought it ‘poetic and devastating’. It won The Guardian First Book Award.

I bought the book based on the reviews, surely so many couldn’t be wrong. I must be appallingly out-of-step. I did not like the book at all. Not only did I not like it, I found hardly a page or sentence which moved me, let alone interested me. I was bored. I thought the book was badly written, had no real purpose and never came alive at any stage. I’ve read plenty of war literature, never coming across anything as bad as this. I accept that this was written by a serving soldier, and I have no experience of war, but that does not mean that the soldier can write. I believe that The Yellow Birds is a bad book.

In The Light Of What We Know supposedly ‘wrestles with the intricacies of the 2008 financial crash’. James Wood thought it ‘astonishingly achieved…ideas and provocations abound on every page’; Joyce Carol Oates compared it to Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby and the writers Graham Greene, W.G. Sebald, John le Carre and Thomas Mann. At 554 pages, as opposed to The Yellow Birds’ 226, this was very hard going. Again, I read it because of the reviews. Again, I found almost nothing of interest. This is not to say that Rahman may not write a good novel in the future, but this is not it; it is an obvious first novel, with too much crammed into it and no recognisable structure to hold it all. To me, another bad book.

I am still mystified by the marvellous reviews for these books. I do not believe I am over critical or unreasonable. I am quite widely read, reading anything from Shakespeare to detective novels. I fully accept that books like Fifty Shades of Grey get published and people like them. But they do not pretend to be, or get treated as, literature. They are harmless, not to my taste, but harmless. Was The Yellow Birds taken so seriously because it was written by a serving soldier? I don’t think so; there are many better books on the subject that get much closer to the truth. Did the author merely know the right people, who spread the word? I really don’t know. In The Light Of What We Know was crammed full of ideas which ultimately went nowhere in very boring fashion. How on earth did it gain such reviews?

I would be interested to hear from anyone who disagrees with me. Have any of you read these books? Am I so out-of-touch? Or is there a strange system of reviewing, where a book is chosen and the same people choose to say wonderful things about it? The same books and authors seem to get reviewed by the same people, ad nauseam. Not all the books are bad, of course, but every week something awful is praised to the heavens. I repeat, I am not bitter, merely mystified.

Just to add balance, I would like to say that I’ve recently read: A True Story Based on Lies and Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement, A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, Jimfish by Christopher Hope, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Trespass by D.J. Taylor, Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone and A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan (among others) and thoroughly enjoyed them all, for very different reasons, gaining a different kind of pleasure from each.

They were simply good stories, well-told.

chriscuba-001

Janet Suzman Skewers the Oxfordians

01v/11/arve/G2582/016

I have just finished an interesting book by Janet Suzman, a fine Shakespearean actress. She played one of the best Cleopatras I’ve seen in 1974 and produced and directed a brilliant Othello in Johannesburg in 1987. The book, Not Hamlet: Meditations on the Frail Position of Women in Drama, deals primarily with women and acting, a topic I will return to later. But here I’ll just reference her first chapter, A Rogue Prologue: A heartfelt plea for a bit of common sense. The chapter deals with those who believe the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays and although Suzman is very reluctant to address the topic, she writes:

Obfuscations shot through with cant, piffle and deception seems to me a poor subject for deep analysis. Furthermore to waste good millions on a lousy film to defend the indefensible seems both profligate and time-wasting. Even spending my time on this counter-blast is irritating. But I find myself wanting to defend the man from Stratford here; the one person in the universe who doesn’t need my defence. But there you go, he’s got it.

She says that the fact that Oxford lived almost concurrently with Shakespeare, had travelled, had some connections and ‘wrote a few poems of uneven quality’ seems to have ‘addled the brains’ of the Oxfordians.

For your Oxfordian, it’s impossible for a writer to conjure up another world in the imagination, he has to have been there, which for a start puts the entire range of science fiction into the rubbish bin. The notion that you can’t write about anything until you have-been-there-done-that is just silly.

Later she writes:

Because you have to be a conspiracy theorist to imagine the Earl of Oxford secretly wrote thirty seven plays performed and printed over a quarter of a century without being found out. And you have to be a snob if you hate it that the greatest poet the world has ever produced was born into the humble alder-manic classes of a provincial town.

Janet Suzman admits she is no academic. All the better for that. She has just spent a lifetime among actors, theatre companies and the works of Shakespeare. And guess what? Actors, directors – the whole crew – talk to each other.

Has it never occurred to this bunch of dreamers how such a daft plot might work in a busy theatre company? No whispers and sniggers about such a plonking modus operandi, a deception stretching over twenty-five years? Did this doltish William of theirs never crow in his cups about his secret benefactor and his growing wealth? Did the company never notice how illiterate Will had suddenly turned scribe, brandishing inky cue-sheets under their noses, scribbly fingers freshly stained? Did no one ever mark how rewrites – for rewrites there surely were – happened only after William had returned from a loo-break?

I was pleased that she mentioned the most obvious reason the Earl of Oxford did not write the plays: the fact that he died in 1604.

Not to mention that the earl dies in 1604 and Shakespeare lasts until 1616, but hey, no worries, the late plays secretly mature in the company cellar like bottles of vintage claret, to be broached one by one with a flourish when a new play is required. In the silly film a pile of the late plays are tremblingly handed by the dying earl to Ben Jonson for safekeeping. Ben then manages to hide them in a tin trunk beneath the stage. For nine years those plays lie safe, undiscovered by prying prop hands. Then the terrible Globe fire of 1613 happens, and lo! – they are rescued by a panic-stricken Ben.

One can almost hear Suzman chuckling as she writes, fed up with (yet again) having to rescue Shakespeare from the idiot Oxfordians, but nevertheless quite enjoying destroying their case with accuracy and humour. I only have space for a few of her arguments here, but she picks off the Oxfordian arguments one by one in her (highly recommended) book. The many people who knew Shakespeare?

For heaven’s sake – we have at least a dozen known contemporaries of his who knew him well and who mention him both as an author and an actor, a continuous series of traces left from him from 1592 until his death in 1616.

She supplies several (much deserved) digs at the ‘infuriating circumstantial wooliness of the Oxfordians.’

Not only a dreadful snobbery pervades their view, but a limiting literalness that is hard to fathom, especially as some of the more famous adherents have perfectly respectable imaginations of their own. Remember that not a single trace is discernible in the Oxfordian paper-chase. It’s all smoke and snobbery.

smokeShe has little sympathy or feeling for Oxford, although she refrains from mentioning that he lived beyond his means, owed everybody money and cruelly murdered one of his servants.

The poor Earl of Oxford’s life, such as we know it, is way too complicated, not to mention too short, to have fitted into the sneaky diurnal disguise devised for him. Writing, directing and acting in a slew of your own plays, in a company of performers who knew you well, in a town abuzz with gossip and rivalry, for a quarter of a century is really more than enough for any one man to have accomplished. To have somehow feigned all this, God knows how, without being rumbled, simply beggars belief.

She signs off with

Oxford did not write the plays. William Shakespeare of Stratford is the man who knows the quiet industry of creation and the hurly-burly of staging it. It’s as simple as that. Otherwise we are truly away with leprechauns.

Leprechauns maybe. I would be less polite. To the Tower with all of them.

Not Hamlet: Meditations on the Frail Position of Women in Drama

chriscuba-001

Who’s happy?

masks-001I began this blog a week ago, intending to write about happiness and how, generally, I believe the upper-classes to be less happy than the lower. I thought I had loads of quotes to use: stuff read over the years – but finding them was a different matter; buried in hundreds of books. However, after nearly abandoning the idea through lack of material, I decided to press on anyway.

A controversial theory perhaps but interesting all the same. Of course the classes as I imagine them mainly existed in the past, nevertheless, there are probably three groups of people everywhere: those at the bottom, those in the middle and those at the top. There are of course major differences in ambition among these categories, some being more-or-less happy where they are, while others’ aspirations and desires know no bounds.

I generalise shamelessly, but I have never understood sentiments such as Vita Sackville-West’s, below:

No thinking man can be happy, all that we can hope for is to get through life with as much suppression of misery as possible.”

I’m sure Sackville-West was immensely talented. I don’t know. I haven’t read her. The above quote is from West’s novel, The Easter Party, quoted in a review of the latest biography of West in the Spectator, written by Mary Keen. She preceded the quote with a comment on Sissinghurst and the gardens created by West, and on which were based her Observer gardening columns. She writes:

Isn’t that what imaginative people do? Make somewhere they can call their own world? Reality, both of the real and of the modern, manufactured sort, is often pretty unbearable and most of us wear masks and adopt strategies for dealing with life in whatever way we can.

Keen goes on to quote Myles Hildyard, who questioned in his letters the right of those who expect to be happy.

So, we have:

…as much suppression of misery as possible’

Reality…is pretty unbearable’

and Hildyard questions those who

expect to be happy’.

All three statements are alien to me. I can’t speak for others, because people are rarely honest about this, but I have been mainly happy throughout my life, at worst content and occasionally miserable. I have no idea why West had to suppress misery. She was well-born, wanted for nothing, lived in splendid surroundings, had a successful career as an artist and two lovely children. What was there to be miserable about?

Now, I do not hide from reality. I am well aware of all the suffering in the world, but thankfully it hasn’t reached me. The unnecessary suffering of others can haunt and anger me; it does not affect my own happiness though – why should it? Making oneself miserable about the suffering of others does no good to the sufferers and no good to oneself. I think in many cases it is merely an excuse to be miserable. I am amazed at the number of young people I meet who declare life a trial, who didn’t ask to be here and don’t appreciate that life is a gift. To be enjoyed. You are here once for a comparatively short time. Be happy.

As you may have gathered, I am working-class.

I suppose what Sackville-West is suggesting is that no thinking person can be happy because the very act of thinking reveals how horrible the world is. But the world isn’t horrible, some human beings are. I don’t see that as a reason to be miserable, especially one as privileged as Vita Sackville-West. It seems to me that many of her class were, and are, just plain miserable. A misery, through their actions, they often end up inflicting on the rest of us, who are not miserable.

Steven King is most certainly working class, straight-talking, no-nonsense and honest. Norman Mailer was always a happy soul, and he was far from well-born. He was at home in – and wrote about – all levels of society. Chekov was descended from peasants, and wrote about them honestly. Tolstoy wanted to be a peasant, learnt their ways but couldn’t be one; he wrote about them sentimentally, but his motives and his heart were in the right place. Graham Greene was happy, although he said he made himself sad by doing too much with his life. Not a writer, but a genius just the same, Charlie Chaplin was born poor, but still thought:

We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.

Of course there is another side, many examples will prove me wrong. Ernest Hemingway said:

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.

I don’t agree with him. Hemingway was never a happy man and projected his feelings on to others. Kafka, born into the middle-classes, was just plain miserable (and unreadable, in my opinion):

People label themselves with all sorts of adjectives. I can only pronounce myself as nauseatingly miserable beyond repair.

Beyond repair; good-grief. I’m glad I never met him.

I believe that if you’ve never struggled to pay a bill, never wondered where the next penny is coming from, never been close to homelessness through no fault of your own, then you don’t really fully understand life. Many of the rich and well-off consider the poor to be to blame for their own predicament. This is an easy way to think (or not think); some of the poor are to blame, many lack great ambition (no sin), most are just not greedy, and the majority are not to blame for where they happen to be. They were born there. As were most of the rich. Being born with money means (through no fault of your own) you never have to really deal with life. And I’m not sure you really know happiness either.

Most of the poor I have met are a damn sight happier than the rich. Markedly so. Especially in India, Bali and Cuba, to name just a few of the places I have experience of. Cuba, where 90% of the people are very poor, has the happiest people I’ve ever met. I believe the poor, or not rich more accurately, are happier because, as Epictetus put it:

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.

And Aristotle:

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.

Charles Darwin, who understood much, and was not of the poor said:

If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.

Our institutions cause not only poverty but people in body bags. Of this, Barbara Bush said:

Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?

This does show how some people deal with reality. They ignore it. I’m not at all sure that Bush has a beautiful mind, but she believes that she has, and the fact that her son caused those body bags to be used does not seem to trouble her, or indeed even occur to her. This is a fine example of how someone, born to riches, lives in a sort of dream-world, a strange world that doesn’t exist, except in the imaginations of very rich, stupid people.

Sadly, I have generalised and simplified outrageously, but at least I have raised a subject for discussion. I will end on a positive note, from perhaps the greatest optimist of all time, Anne Frank, whose happiness in the most horrible of circumstances is an example I wish everybody would follow:

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death. I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.

Whoever is happy will make others happy.

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

chriscuba-001

Writing Heroes – Ingrid Betancourt

book-001I read a book a few years ago called Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt. I don’t remember much of the book, only impressions. One event in the book stayed with me though. I’ll never forget it. I’ll come to that later.

.

Betancourt, forty one in 2002, and a presidential candidate, was abducted by FARC, a guerrilla organisation in Colombia. She had given up a life of comfort and safety to become a political leader. She spent six-and-a-half-years in the depths of the jungle, walked hundreds of miles, often chained, day and night. She tried to escape several times, often succeeding, only to be recaptured.

.

I still have my impressions from the book. FARC were mostly stupid and brutal; they recruited from the very poorest and brainwashed them into hating their captors – very basic class warfare. The captors were moved often, always being hundreds of miles from safety. Any escape involved negotiating almost impossible, dangerous terrain through the jungle. She made friends and enemies along the way.

.

She struck me as being a very determined, brave woman. There were times when she made herself unpopular with her fellow captors. I’m not sure why, although I can imagine she could be a dominant personality, constantly persuading her co-captors to action rather than lethargy and safety-first – a wait-and-see attitude.

.

She and all the captives suffered a great deal. The FARC guerrillas were generally unintelligent and spiteful, not glamorous at all, and politically indoctrinated against any independent thought, even if they were capable of it. Few of them could read or write. There were decent people among them, but not many – much the same as society, I suppose.

.

The book is a great read. I’m not sure how popular it became (it was published in 2010), but it certainly deserved popularity. Betancourt’s tells a story of suffering, courage and eventually triumph that is beyond the imagining of anybody who has not been in her situation.

.

The event I referred to earlier occurred about half-way through the book. There were many captives of many nationalities; there was often tension between them: petty jealousies, getting upset over silly things, not knowing who to trust. According to Betancourt, she remained above it all, although I’m sure she could be forceful. Earlier one of the female captives had become pregnant by one of the guerrillas. She had escaped earlier with Betancourt but, as always, they had been re-captured. She was a strange woman. At the time of this incident the prisoners did not even know where she was; she had been taken away, presumably for medical treatment.

.

One day some of the captors insisted that Betancourt be moved from their compound. It was sheer nastiness. I’m not sure why they behaved like that. Perhaps they objected to her positivity – I don’t know. There was constant bickering. She was moved to another area of the camp, the chicken run, where she found the pregnant woman, eight months gone, living alone. Later another captive joined them, also banished for sticking up for her.

.

They lived quite well. The pregnant woman wanted Betancourt to be the baby’s godmother; the other captive loved the absence of tension away from the main compound,

“I can’t bear the thought of going back to that prison”

he said. Echoing his fear, a guard arrived:
.

Your fellow prisoners have been complaining because one of the guards told them that you have better living conditions than they do. They want you back.
.

Betancourt says that she felt she was entering the gates of hell when she was returned to the main compound.

.

“You didn’t stay away long” hissed one of her companions. “I’m sure you missed us” replied Betancourt’s male friend, returned also, “maybe it was you who insisted we come back”. A man sniggered:

.

Well, we too have some influence.

This was by far the most shocking incident of the book for me. Many awful things happened during the prisoners’ six-and-a-half years of captivity. None of us knows how we would react to the terrible and traumatic experiences without actually having to go through it. But to banish someone from the main compound is perhaps just silly. To then hear that they might be better off and insist that they be brought back defies belief. It is the height of malicious jealousy.

.

I told a few people of the incident after reading it. The most popular response was “Well, we don’t know how we would react in those circumstances.” That’s true. There are many incidents in the book where I don’t know how I would react. I don’t know if I would have the courage to try to escape. I don’t know what attitude I would take to my captors, to my fellow prisoners. I would like to think that I would remain positive and make the best of whatever happened. But we just don’t know until we have suffered the same exhaustion, pain and trauma that all the captives did.

.

But one thing I’m sure of. If Betancourt was moved and found herself better off, I’d merely have thought “Good luck to her”. To insist she be returned was madness, nothing to do with their general circumstances of captivity. It was spiteful, stupid, jealous and petty.

.

I won’t reveal the nationality of the people who insisted she be returned. That would be unfair. There were three main culprits. In the event it was a minor incident for Betancourt, who was eventually rescued by the Colombian military. I’m sure that sort of captivity would bring out the worst in all of us, perhaps the best too. Hopefully, we will never know.

colombia

One thing I’m sure of though: I would not have banished Betancourt in the first place, and I most definitely would not have insisted she be returned because I merely suspected that she might be happier wherever she was. Unbelievable.

.

What do you think?

chriscuba-001