Cracking Stories – the conclusion

Sinead Morrissey was smiling at her laptop. The powers that be had baulked at the overtime claimed by Sinead’s team. But the hard work had paid off. Guernica had let slip a comment on the Dark Web that revealed a clandestine meeting scheduled for that evening in the Cuban bar at the quayside in Bordeaux.

Eoin and Dermot had finished their research for the day and had taken a river bus to the museum of wine. The fine wines on offer at the top of the modern swirling building were exquisite. A free glass of 1996 Margaux had whetted their appetite and they headed for a riverside brasserie in the evening sunshine.

Wrong Thoughts in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR)

State control is a tricky business. If an ideology or faith challenges the supreme power of the state, what actions can be taken to reassert authority?

In the 1950s and 60s the gulags and psychiatric hospitals were full of Russian dissidents, or people merely suspected of not toeing the party line. Stalin was the master of fear and repression. His legacy lives on in the tactics of Vladimir Putin.

Myanmar’s violent treatment of a Muslim minority by the military and its repeated denials of genocide to the world’s press is the usual totalitarian approach to opposition.

China has built a massive detention centre in the desert to ‘re-educate’ those with wrong thoughts. It is reported that large numbers of Muslims are being held there to be educated.

The times and tides of humanity

In the West the 1960s were a time of great hope. Feminism, black power and love-ins were accompanied by protest marches, violent repression and the assassination of prominent liberal politicians. We had a dream and it has been partially fulfilled.

Queer bashing and paki bashing are no longer tolerated by today’s youths who are relaxed about gender identity and sexuality. Women receive fairer treatment in the workplace, discrimination of any kind is not acceptable and has been legislated against.

Today poverty, war, and economic migration have provoked different reactions around the world. The Germans and Scandinavians have taken in refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts. Trump wants to keep out Latin Americans. The Greeks and Italians are struggling to cope with the number of emigrants who take to the sea in unseaworthy boats to escape violence and hopelessness in their home nations.

The 1980s were a time of great wealth for multinational companies. Financiers and property companies were making a killing. The corporate world was well served by governments that imagined a trickling down of prosperity and full employment if tax breaks were offered and labour laws relaxed. The reality was very different.  Homelessness increased, prisons filled up and the middle classes installed hi-tech security systems to protect their homes. CCTV cameras were everywhere.

By the new Milleniun the excesses of corporate banking institutions had reached new peaks of recklessness. Lending to people who were most likely to default on their mortgage payments brought the banking system to its knees. In the UK a bail out by government propped up banks that were going to go to the wall. In Iceland they accepted the fate of their main bank and watched it collapse. Austerity became the watchword of the UK government, the USA promoted economic growth and the banking merry-go-round carried on paying huge salaries and incentives to the very people who had caused the mess in the first place.

The West was growing tired of sensible liberal policies such as affordable health care for all. Obama had had his day and now it was Trump’s turn to try to undo Obamacare. His tweeting style of leadership grabbed the nation who liked the brevity of 140 character limits and plain speaking.

North Korea’s leader was dubbed the Rocket Man by Trump and negotiations were successfully concluded to restrain the warmongering by the dictatorial dynasty. International Treaties were torn up, climate change limits on pollution ignored, trade sanctions imposed and tariffs placed on Chines products by the USA.

Brexit came as a shock to the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland who had solidly opposed it but were bound by the majority vote and the UK government’s decision. Yet another reason for Scottish independence and Irish reunification?

And what of the Middle East? Trump moved the USA embassy to Jerusalem and spoke out against Palestinian attacks on Israelis, despite the huge disparity in recorded deaths of Palestinian civilians compared with those of Israelis. West Bank developments in the occupied land continue and there is no sign of a settlement between the two sides. To the victor the spoils.

So in the current era of broken treaties and state murder what are the major shifts in the zeitgeist? The 27 EU countries are concluding the Brexit negotiations and the UK government is clinging to power with the help of Northern Ireland’s DUP party.

China is becoming the major player in world economics and keeps a lid on any calls for greater democracy. Russia acts tough in the face of international condemnation for the murder of dissidents and the annexation of Crimea. Climate change will cause devastation but not nearly enough is being done to halt or slow the rate of change.

But all this hardly affects most people as they skip read news headlines and order another decaff latte. Sure, what can you do?

Carys Davies – well worth a read

I was given a ticket by my favourite Welshman for a book reading at No Alibis bookshop yesterday by Carys Davies.

Her selected readings from “West” were well read, and the chat with fellow writer Jan Carson interesting insights into the author’s writing process.

I have started reading her book of short stories “Some New Ambush”, signed by the author, of course.

 

Journalistic freedom and integrity

The recent case of Jamal Khashoggi is another example of authoritarian regimes committing murder and believing that they can get away with it.

Jamal Khashoggi

Whatever sanctions may be imposed on Saudi Arabia by its allies, the murder of a journalist for daring to criticise an obviously dictatorial regime, should not only be condemned by all right-thinking people but protested around the world outside Saudi embassies and consulates.