What was the use of Magna Carta?

And what was the use of The Peasants’ Revolt, or the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, or indeed the iconic French Revolution with its motto ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’? All of these were brutal reactions to oppression by entitled elites who refused to relax their grasp on their privileged lives.

What we are seeing now, with a wave of populism so sneered at by the privileged elite, is a (so far) less bloody reaction to the oppression of laissez-faire globalized capitalism that has served only to enrich the rich and beggar the poor.

Here in Australia the government propped up the banks during the GFC with A$700 Billion (of tax payers money) in loan guarantees. 9 years on the banking sector is still behaving in the same reckless manner, pumping up the property market with shaky loans, and issuing worthless paper.

House prices are now 10 times the average wage, and household debt is at 189% of disposable income – twice what it was 10 years ago. There are in circulation complex derivatives to a paper value of 12 times the actual value of the total GDP. And the experts, the pundits, wonder why the rise of populism. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

And what are our leaders doing about it? Nothing – because almost without exception they have their hands in the till, or their noses in the trough. They are prospering on the back of this bubble. Mike Baird, the former NSW Prime Minister, resigned and within 5 weeks walked into a banking job at a salary in excess of A$2 million, and negotiated a mortgage in excess of A$1 million to buy a house in a swanky suburb. The feeling is that he negotiated this golden parachute before he quit.

The property boom is being driven by speculators using negative gearing to lower their tax burden – and by black money coming in from China and the obscene profits from the ‘Ice’ epidemic that is sweeping Australia.

Donald Trump was right in saying “It’s time to drain the swamp.” No wonder he was elected instead of the criminal Clintons.

And Britain is right to exit the European Union – another club designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. With the most recent terrorist attack in Paris it is looking likely that Marine Le Pen will become French President and take France out of the EU.

I am no supporter of right wing governments, or fascism – but I understand from history all to well how it comes about. It is the fault of the decadent and narcissistic fools who think they are entitled to rule without reference to the wishes of the common man. Google NARCISSIM and see what I mean.

My 12 odd years of economic imposed exile in the lonely oil camps of the Middle East gave me time think, read many good books, and observe Western so-called civilization from afar with detachment. And the company of the expatriate flotsam and jetsam that washed up in THE GULF for whatever reasons (financial ruin at the hands of banks, unfaithful wives, out of control drugged out teenage children, a weariness of fighting in politicians wars – Vietnam, Buraimi, Dhofar, The Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq – or just a general sick-to-the-stomach reaction to the consumerist ‘greed-is-good’ and ‘obesity-is-the-norm’ lifestyle in The West) – and exposure to austere Islam – gave me a wealth of material to write my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.

Although it is a work of fiction, it is journalistic because the stories start from real events I witnessed – or were reported to me by reliable sources during my 40 years in and out of The Gulf. It is written from the points of view of those expatriates washed up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

You can preview my book on AMAZON’s Kindle Websites:

www.amazon.com www.amazon.co.uk

and read the comprehensive 5 Star reviews it has received, and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, you can preview my book, and order the paperback from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

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Tribal Weaving

One of the criticisms levelled at BREXIT it that it will encourage the rise of nationalism in Europe. The irony of the European Union is that it has already presided over the rise of nationalism, and a descent into tribalism.

First we had the breakup of Yugoslavia, with only Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia as viable economic entities, and the remainder as dependent entities for the forseeable future. Then Czechoslovakia broke up with Slovakia heavily dependent.

Now it seems that the UK might break up – with Scotland and Northern Ireland wanting to stay in the EU – and leave the UK. The EU encourages disintegration, with its promise of huge regional grants to support peripheral economies that actively encourages ethnic differences.

I am, on my Mother’s side, Anglo Saxon from Middle England, with surnames like Brown, Jackson and Washington, and possible distant realtionships with American Presidents. But on my Father’s side I am a Celt with grandparents from Greenock on Clydeside, and Wrexham, North Wales. I even have a Manx great grandmother, so there is some Viking in there. (And this raises the issue of The Shetlands, which are as much Norwegian in their thinking – UP HELLY Aa festival with Geizer Jarl and a procession of Vikings. And remember, The Shetlands were a gift from the Norwegians to the English Crown so legally does not belong to Scotland).

Where I was born and raised in England our neighbours were predominantly Irish – the Brandons, the Braddocks, the Burkeys and the Hollingsworths – and Welsh, the Williams, the Roberts and Jones’s. And where my grandparents lived they were mostly Scottish – the Lawsons, the McTaggarts, the McCallisters. And the Anglo, Irish, Welsh and Scottish children all freely intermarried. The idea of racial purity is atavistic.

The British are a mongrel nation of Anglo-Celts with dashes of Viking, Norman and even Roman blood – and it was this broad gene pool that produced the hybrid energy and dynamism that changed and enriched the whole world. It is unthinkable that we will go back to the atavistic extremes of nationalism, tribalism and ferocious clan loyalties.

We have just recently emerged from 25 years of the blood letting and brutality of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. A battle between two Celtic tribes with the English as “piggy-in-the-middle”. Imagine if Sinn Fein get their wish, and Northern Ireland stays in the EU, and the EU supports the unification of Ireland. How will the Protestant Celts respond? I forsee a civil war with Scottish Protestants joining the fray. It will be The Balkans all over again, with the Americans and the UN joining in and turning a crisis into a disaster.

It is exactly this sort of outside interference and intervention that has caused the sectarian rivalry and tribalism and the apocalyptic and brutal conflicts in the Middle East.

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” there is a story, TRIBAL WEAVING, that appears to support tribalism. In a way it does, because the yearning to return to the simpler nomadic life of a hunter/gather, (the Noble Savage), and escape the boredom of sedentary and tedious suburban living, is very strong, particularly in the hard-pressed Western male. But the story is more serious than that.

Iran had a democratically elected government under Mossadeq – but he was socialist, and so the Americans deposed him and placed the despicable Shah and his cronies in power. They tried to drive the nomadic tribes to settle in towns and villages so that they could seize their lands. And the people revolted and threw out The Shahinshah and replaced him with the Ayatollahs. Out of the frying pan and into . . .

If you want authentic insights into the chaos in the Middle East from 1960 that lead to the events of 9/11, 2001 then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Based on 40 years working in the international oil industry it is a collection of stories about expatriates washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Flotsam and jetsam trying to survive in a rapidly changing and frequently violent world. You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Fascism, Communism . . . and Picasso

Yesterday I happened on a book about Picasso’s creation of his Civil War masterpiece GUERNICA. In a series of brutal images etched in black across a huge stark white canvas he expressed the rage he felt at the carpet bombing of a small town in Spain that killed 80 percent of the inhabitants. This, the first time bombing had been aimed at civilians in order to terrorise them – and a precursor to the carpet bombing of Coventry, Liverpool and London by the Nazis, the 1,000 bomber raids of the Allied forces that flattened Dresden and Berlin – the ultimate horrific atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and the American bombings of Hanoi, and the NATO terror bombings of Belgrade.
America and The West wants to spread democracy and freedom, as long as it is the democracy and freedom they want. And if hundreds of thousands of people are killed and maimed in the name of freedom so be it.
How quickly the momentous events of the 20th Century have become history, and how quickly in this age of the triumph of Capitalism have we forgotten the struggle of Communism versus Fascism that dominated the last Century.
The Spanish civil War was a consequence of extreme right wing Monarchists refusing to accept the will of the people in electing (twice) a Socialist government and replacing it with a Fascist dictatorship by force of arms. And this has been replicated in Latin America many times, particularly in Chile, where President Allende was assassinated by the CIA and replaced with the military dictator Pinochet, and in Iran where the legitimate elected government of Mossadeq was replaced by the vainglorious and corrupt Shah – and now in Egypt, where the elected Muslim government of Morsi has been replaced by a military junta.
In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” I have tried to set in the political context of the 20th Century a series of stories spanning 40 years from the 1960s as The Arabian/Persian Gulf developed rapidly from a sleepy backwater of the British Empire into a fabulously wealthy, and hedonistic arena of international significance fueled by the Western greed for cheap energy supplies. The history of that turbulent period is shown through the stories of archetypal expatriates who washed up in The Gulf, their lives shattered by the blunderings of US (and British) foreign policies in the region.
In particular one story “If You Don’t . . . Someone Else Will” set during the First Gulf War deals with the American massacre of Iraqis fleeing from Kuwait to Baghdad along Highway 80 – an infamous stretch of road littered with burned out trucks, cars and buses, and hundreds of bodies including women and children that came to be called “The Mile of Death”. It sickened the military into telling the politicians “Enough is enough” and brought that war to an end.
You can preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” at:
http://www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards
and download it if you have a Kindle.
Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:
http://www.thebookdepository.co.uk
The ISBN number is 978-1908147097
They offer free delivery worldwide.
I hope you enjoy it.

He who shouts the loudest . . .

            . . . is the Winner

            “The Americans fought WWII against the Germans, with the help of the Russians, on behalf of the Jews”.

So went the opening of an article in NEWSWEEK some years ago, and it was incorrect in every fact. WWII began when Britain declared war on Germany because they marched into Poland intent on conquering Europe. America stayed out of this “European War” until Pearl Harbor, and the Russians signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler—and the plight of the Jews was never raised during the whole of the war. And after the war the horrors of AUSCHWITZ were not the centre piece of the grisly pictures of the Nazis’ concentration/labour/death camps. Yet the international edition of The Sunday Times this weekend had yet another article about Auschwitz.

Approximately 22 Million people died in various concentration camps of which about 6 Million were Jews. But there were also millions of non-Jewish Poles and French, and many thousands of Roma, homosexuals, political prisoners, Prisoners of War and common criminals exterminated in labour/death camps.

I am lucky/unlucky enough to remember WWII. I was 12 when it ended, and my father was a serious man who took and read two newspapers a day – three on a Sunday. Our house was full of news. During the war I remember nothing being reported of the plight of the Jews, and after the war the horrors of the concentration camps were depicted by Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald and Dachau. Only much later were the horrors of Auschwitz detailed.  It was one of the biggest death camps and dedicated to the extermination of Jews – but it was not the biggest.

Who has heard of Mathausen-Gusen complex, which was the biggest, a category Stufe III labour camp dedicated to bone grinding down the intelligentsia of Europe, and where more than 300,000 died?  How many books, movies and magazine articles have been written about that camp?

I am not comfortable applying league tables to atrocities—the extermination of any group of humans be they Jews, Roma, homosexuals, intelligentsia—is a crime against humanity. But I am even less comfortable with people justifying evil because they had evil done to them. Perhaps it is my Christian upbringing but I find fanaticism, hate and terrorism despicable. Wreaking vengeance on those who did you evil is understandable—but savaging your friends because they do not support your extreme views (that ironically align closely with Fascism) is not.

Like most Brits, when the details of the Final Solution and the horrors of Auschwitz were revealed, I had enormous sympathy for The Jews. But this was dissipated by the activities of Irgun and The Stern Gang—the massacre at Beir Yassim, the assassinations of Lord Moyne and Folke Bernadotte, the bombing of the King David Hotel, the cold blooded execution of unarmed British soldiers, and the hanging of two captured British NCOs in an orchard, the pictures of which caused my grandmother to exclaim:

“Hitler wasn’t wrong.”

Even at my young age her comment made my blood run cold – but I do understand the strength of her emotions. She lost brothers in WWI, and she lost many nights sleep and died young because of the stress of WWII when her sons and their cousins went to war to fight the evils of Fascism. By some miracle they all survived—she did not.

            My grandmother was an Orange Lodge Protestant banner carrying Sermon on The Mount Socialist from Greenock, Scotland. She is the backbone of my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. She is real, and the stories in the book are journalistic, based on events I witnessed during 40 years in the Mideast, and the archetypes of the expatriate characters who wash up there for whatever reason.

            Read Layla and Uncle Tom’s story in my book: the Christian Palestinian woman and ruin of an elderly Englishman who against all the brutal odds tried to run a Church of England orphanage near Ramallah—and failed.

You can preview my book at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a Kindle. Or if you prefer a paperback yo can buy from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide