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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Myths, Legends and outright Lies

rainbow_overperranI’ve often wondered about the many myths we believe in. There must be thousands, more. I know of only a few, but in many ways modern life is based on myth, what we believe to be true, but which is only partly true or not true at all. You probably wonder what I mean. Well, everybody knows now, for example, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction – it was one of the many stories concocted by people determined to go to war with Iraq. I’m not sure, but surely most people know now that WMDs were a myth. Of course there are still those among us who believe the war was justified, and they may well choose to believe the claim. But they believe a myth. It simply isn’t true.

Likewise, when the USA chose to attack Iraq, Americans were told that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the twin towers. None of the nineteen people responsible for 9/11 was from Iraq; Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with it, but apparently 60% of Americans believed it to be so. For those who do not want to believe that the war was a mistake, an ongoing mistake that is still costing hundreds of lives, it is much easier to believe that Iraq was responsible, to believe in the myth.

Myths do not need to be quite so important, to have such dire consequences, for example, it is popularly believed that one is never further than six feet from a rat. I’ve no idea where this originated, but the BBC’s More or Less team calculated that there are 3.1 million rats in urban areas; even if they were spread absolutely evenly (which they are not), this would give each rat 5000 square metres, which means that you are never further than 164 feet (minimum) from a rat. But of course, urban myths are a good topic of conversation; it is often more fun to believe them than to coldly consider the truth.

A rather more serious, but archaic myth, is that of King Richard III, who is, or was, widely believed to have murdered the two young princes in the tower. He is the perfect villain, hunchbacked and unappealing, with a record for ruthlessness and murder throughout his very short reign (1483-85). The first time I doubted this was on reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, the title taken from the proverb, Truth is the daughter of time, written in 1951, and included in a fictional detective story. It is a forensic debunking of the whole Richard III myth; there is much detail, but basically, most of the evil attributed to Richard was Tudor propaganda, started by Henry VII, his successor, and continued throughout the whole Tudor dynasty, which lasted until the death of Elizabeth in 1603. But, the propaganda was marvellous stuff, Shakespeare’s play was based on it (written in Elizabethan times) and the story became embedded in the public consciousness. I’m sure that many people still believe in Richard’s villainy.

Less seriously again, it is widely believed that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle simply got fed up with writing about his fictional detective and stopped, and that it is only by popular demand that he resurrected him. The truth is more prosaic. In 1903, McClure’s magazine in the United States offered Doyle $5000 ($60000 today) per story; he told them he’d be a fool to refuse, so after a ten year hiatus, Holmes returned. Doyle hated writing the stories; he wanted to write more serious stuff, but continued writing Sherlock Holmes stories for another 25 years, and it is a credit to him that most of them remain of a very high quality.

Apparently, if you ask anyone how many immigrants are in this country (the UK), they will say about a third or 33%, and over half the population (57%) believe that there are too many immigrants. This is the highest figure of many countries surveyed, including the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. The UK population that was foreign born represents 11.1%. The unusually high belief that this is otherwise is probably mainly due to the media, papers such as the Daily Mail propagate the myth of immigrants daily, and politicians, especially today’s will soon jump on the bandwagon. Benefit fraud is another popular myth, mainly encouraged by the media. Surveys revealed that people believe that 27% of their money is lost to fraud. In fact the figure is 0.7%, rather a wild difference. These are just two of the many myths that a large percentage of the population live by; their whole belief systems, their philosophies and the way they behave are based on myths.

Lastly, I would like to mention a myth of my own, that of Mother Theresa. In 1992, I was in Bucharest, Romania, during the crisis of abandoned children; I was part of a many faceted and international aid programme that intended to help, and as far as I can see, did help in many ways. I was there for two weeks at the Sisters of Mother Theresa Orphanage in Bucharest. It was a fairly small orphanage, with little room in the building but extensive grounds and playing areas. There were two small rooms where the children, of varied disability, very few were normal, played; there was also a small school room where very basic stuff was taught. The children were allowed into the garden during the day, but only on request from the volunteers (there were about eight of us); the nuns wanted to keep the children inside, where there was little space, because it was easier to control them, perhaps not even control them because they ran wild, but at least they knew where they were.

After a few days Mother Theresa arrived on an inspection visit. She briefly surveyed the premises, not looking at the children once. She ordered that the school be closed ‘God will provide’, so that there would be more room and that the doors to the garden be locked. She did not speak to any of the children or the volunteers. And she was gone. The school remained closed, but we managed to persuade the nuns to allow the children into the garden, as long as we took responsibility for them. The encounter aroused my curiosity and when I got home, I investigated her. It emerged that her sanctuary in Calcutta (now Kolkata) was extremely basic: an iron bed, minimal food and toilet facilities. Nothing else was provided for the children in care under her name. Nothing. Doctors observed a lack of hygiene, unfit conditions, a complete lack of care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. Presumably God would provide.

Over the years I kept an eye on her. Her political contacts included the murderous Duvalier regime in Haiti, Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings and Loans and Donald Trump, in whose private jet she travelled. Of the numerous disasters in India, she offered medallions; no funds were forthcoming from the massive donations she received. In Bhopal in 1984, between 16000 and 30000 people were killed when Union Carbide’s pesticide plant leaked. No compensation has ever been paid and Union Carbide changed its name. Mother Theresa visited Bhopal not long before her death. She walked around while villagers begged her to do something, to spur some kind of action and help them; it was not only a case of people dying, many thousands were injured and since then there have been birth defects. Mother Theresa wandered among the suffering, hands held in prayer, and said merely

‘Forgive, forgive’

she couldn’t wait to be out of there.

Without my Romanian trip, I suppose I would be like anybody else, and believe that Mother Theresa is a saint. Just an example of one of the many myths we live by. Well, in reality, Mother Theresa is not a saint, very far from it. I would go as far as to say she was a very wicked woman.