Wednesday 26 May 2010

Imposing Human Rights onto others is as paradoxical as this headscarf ban is dangerous.

This has been driving me crazy for weeks.
Day after day I’ve been hurting and reading the papers and hoping and praying, even though I don’t believe in God, but it’s not going away.

It’s so clear to me I can’t stand it, but because it’s being done by democratic Western European governments, all we Western European voters seem to think it’s okay to ban the veil.
But it isn’t.

Oh my good sweet Lord, it isn’t okay at all. Not one sticky bit.
Evil is not a word atheists use, but I’m allowing myself to stray here.
For crying out loud, this is dangerous stuff. We’re stoking up a holocaust, people.

Our leaders tell us that the ban is protecting women from subjugation by religious extremists, but that is nonsense. Of course, unfortunately, there are women out there who are forced to wear veils and scarves against their will, but much more importantly there are countless million Muslim women who choose to worship their God by living in the way they believe is appropriate.

They are not all dupes.
They do not all suffer.
Yet we believe we have the right to take away their right to worship.

Burkha shmurka, this is about the demonisation of a major world religion by the EU and the USA. Our leaders are off fighting a Crusade and we are sitting back saying nothing.
The Judaeo-Christian democracies of the West have decided that Islam is the enemy and Islam has taken up the fight.

But oy, once you start producing doublespeak about 'imposing human rights' on people, you know you’ve lost the plot.

Well I know, but do you? If so, why are you silent? These new laws will be passed in Holland, Belgium, France ... who knows where next?

Quite apart from anything, the notion itself is absurd.
My sweet old Jewish mumma used to be seen in the days of white gloves and Carnaby Street wearing her Hermes headscarf with pride. Ladies in Bradford, West Yorkshire will walk the streets of Little Horton and Buttershaw wearing scarves, head coverings of all types, from hair nets to cheap oversized hankies to yashmak, bhurka and hajib.

When I lived up there, in the middle of Bradford’s deprived Canterbury Estate, a Pakistani lass chatted to me in the drab half-empty Co-Op PriceFighter Supermarket.

“When I walk around in here nobody gives me a second look. I can see all you lot, the men and boys, all looking at all the other women who are not Muslim and I see them judging those women with their eyes, but me? What do I look like? You don’t know so I don’t care. I only care for my husband.”

For a second I wished she’d said “...and myself.” but she didn’t and then I realised I’d only been imposing onto her my own expectations that a powerful and happy woman would have a good self-image.

Maybe to that Muslim woman, self-image was less a matter of how she looked.

I’ve no idea, but I do know that I hate this policy; abhor this thinking; loathe these new laws. I despise the way it’s oozing out of page 7 of the newspapers, and nobody is talking about how we, the once great and wonderful people of Western Europe came out in the streets wearing yellow stars in solidarity with the Jews, who were forced to wear yellow stars by the Nazis.

We, the people, showed our compassion, our love and our respect of all to the right to worship, or indeed the right to worship nothing at all, and now we say nothing.

I'm not a Muslim, but this fight is for all of us. I’m a mutant Jewish Pantheist-Atheist who’s all mixed up for God’s sake, evidently, but dead clear about one thing.
I’m hurting.
I’m ashamed of Europe.
I’m ashamed of all of us who allow this vile degrading propagandist bile to pass into law.

Our elected Western governments are now talking about arresting tourists who wear the veil, so
I want to get a bunch of people together and go to Paris or Brussels or wherever these nonsensical rulings are first passed. I’m going to put on veils of all description and have them arrest this Jewish Atheist-Pantheist non-Muslim extremist for wearing a scarf.

Ban the scarf and the veil and all that will happen is that good Muslim women will be forced to stay inside their homes. That hardly helps their cause as humans with rights.

The utter immensity of the arrogance involved in imposing what our Western governments consider Human Rights on people scares me way more than being arrested by the Fashion Police. Hell, they should have knicked me years ago!

Wear a scarf and get arrested.
Please, let’s not just sit back and let this Crusade nonsense go on.

Friday 21 May 2010

... and one for luck! the risk of stretching a point, I have to add a fourth example of the kindness shown to us here in Zakynthos. A few hours after posting the colyoom below, we went off to Gallinis restaurant, generally accepted here as the best place around. As we were leaving the heavens opened, rain lashing down Galway style'n'fashion, and we looked ready for a soaking.

Our waitress said she wanted to drive us back to our apartment, and please would we accept this bottle of wine from them as a gift?

A lift home and a free bottle of vino? Just what you expect in Galway...

Next colyoom will be less bloody smug and more down to earth, I promise..... but by god, it has done me good to rediscover the goodness of our species!

Thursday 20 May 2010

In the face of adversity the Greeks offer three doses of humanity!

Late May and the locals here on the island of Zakynthos are feeling the pinch. Tourists are coming in, but in dribs and drabs, just when they are needed in droves.

So how do those working in the tourist industry react to this worrying economic challenge? Do they try to screw us out of our last tourist cent?

I walk to the stunning beach of Gerakas, where yer man says it will cost me 8 euro for a sun lounger. I tell him I only want half an hour, just enough time to dip in the torquoise sea and dry off. He says it'll cost me 8 euro for half an hour or all day. I don't have 8 euro on me, so I tell him I'll leave it, turn and walk away.

He yells after me.
"Hey you, come back. No money is not a good reason. I give you lounger anyway."

I offer him a one euro coin but he refuses.

Later we pop into the Calypso bar at Mimis for an aperitif. Host Spiro adamantly refuses to accept any money for our two ouzos.

Off to Nikos taverna, where by 9 o'clock we are the only diners. We've been there three times in two weeks, but feel a part of the family, eating while they eat at the table beside us. As we sit down we are told that the boss is paying for our wine tonight. We smile at himself Niko, (a dead ringer for Bobby de Niro) and he waves back at us, smiling.

We feast on three courses of delicious local food, cooked in the wood oven and are presented with a bill for an unbelievable 24 euros. As we stand to leave, 4 generations of the family come over to shake our hands, smile and thank us profusely. We are given a bottle of 12 year old ouzo and stumble home, warmed more by their hospitality than their excellent food.

When the hard times hit in Ireland we hoped that it might banish the grasping greed of the boom years and usher in the return of compassion and mutual care. Greece is in even more of an economic mess than Ireland, but I wonder if we can match their warmth and generosity? I certainly hope so.

Tomorrow, volcano permitting, the plane will bring me back to the Hemmarroid Hisle. As always, it will be good to be home, but I will miss the genuine warmth and constant friendliness we strangers have been shown by the locals here.

Friday 14 May 2010

Well done or too much...

Lucky old me, spending a while in Porto Roma, a quiet backroad village in a corner of the Greek island of Zakynthos.

Worry not, Colyoomistas, I am not about to turn into one of those smug scribblers who tell you all about how wonderful their holiday is while you toil away under grey skies and the shadow of recession.

What I am going to confess is that I am falling in love with the neighbours. From my balcony I watch as grandad slowly shifts his strong but aching body around his vegetable patch. Wearing his faded blue denims and a baggy green checked shirt, he carefully and steadily hoes the soil around the olive trees and then sits in the shade all afternoon, watching his beans grow in the heat of the day.

His wife, dark green dress and spotless white apron, moves faster and yet still gently wanders back and forth, back and forth along the yellowed sun-baked paths of dust that cut through her lawn. She is carrying two dead chickens. Placing them on a worn out wooden table in the shade of an olive tree, she guts them and plucks them. To her left a lemon tree sags under the weight of its plump fruit.

Out of a gap in the hedge there suddenly appear two young men. They are not loping slowly as is the local way. These lads are moving back and forth at speed, regardless of the heat. Carrying buckets and mops and hammers and chisels they're cleaning the restaurant out front, preparing for the tourist season to begin. Just like back in Ireland, the recession has hit every part of Greek society, and this year the tourists are arriving here slowly and in lower numbers.

Compared to the older couple, it looks as if these lads are speed marching this way and that. Later as I stroll past their house I espy a German van parked in the drive, and smile gently, happy that I can spot a northern European stride from a distance of 50 yards.

But it is the older couple who I love to watch. They shout and grumble at each other in a way that suggests half a century of marriage. Even though I can see how hard they work over very long hours, it is easy to idealise their lives. They have high piles of cut wood for hearth and oven, their sheep and chickens and artichokes and beans and more lemons than anyone might ever want. The pair of them have a rhythm, a style and a calm way about them that is enviable.

Later in another restaurant a waiter asks how I want my steak.

"You like it cooked Redbloody, Medium or Too Much."

I cannot help but laugh. In Ireland we call it 'Well Done', but here it translates as 'Too Much'. Maybe if those Germans slowed down a gear or two, their 'Too Much' might become 'Well Done'.

As a postscript, I take an opportunity to recall my much-loved father, who died two years ago last week. I remember squirming with embarassment when my then brother-in-law always used to order his steak well done when out with our family.

"Another good steak ruined!" my father would loudly and arrogantly assert. He would have loved the local 'Too Much' attitude.

Aye, but not as much as he would have loved the fact that Chelsea won the Premier League with such style, and if we pick up the FA Cup tomorrow we'll secure our club's first ever Double.

Come on you Blues, for Dad and all us Carefeee CFCs.