Plain Stupid…

21 08 2010

Right, so I’m in a bit of a bad mood. Just a warning before I launch into what I’m expecting will be quite a short tirade against stupidity. The reason for my bad mood? Well, I’m struggling with my dissertation, finding myself lacking enthusiasm, passion and motivation for my chosen subject. The fact that I chose this subject myself and I still don’t really care about it only adds to my ill-temper. If we add to this that at the current moment England are being outplayed by Pakistan at the Oval, and it becomes clear to see why my mood isn’t great.

Anyway, that’s just a little warning. The real thing which has tipped me over the edge is this. Which follows my discovery of this. Which comes months after this.

Right. Let’s get one thing straight very quickly. Animals cannot ‘predict’ anything. They almost certainly do not understand the notion of ‘sport’, let alone have any distinguishable ability to predict results. They are animals for crying out loud. Now, I don’t wish to seem a Scrooge about this, and it was a bit of fun during the World Cup, which took away from the abject performances of our own national team. However, with more and more people trying to jump on the prediction bandwagon, the joke got tired quickly. So can we please stop it?

The dog on SkySports does nothing more than simply run up to a bowl of food, and commence eating it. This isn’t clever, it isn’t anything more than a dog eating food. No skill, prediction or talent involved. How can we, as intellectual creatures, think that there is anything more to it than that is completely beyond me. The dog predicts nothing. The octopus predicted nothing. They have no concept of prediction. They are just living their lives. So can we please, please stop thinking that animals can predict things? They can’t. It isn’t even entertaining, it’s just odd. The moment has been and gone. Lets stop jumping on animal bandwagons and find something intelligent to use as entertainment. Please.

Light the Match and You’ll Have Fire…

14 08 2010

You know how it is, when you are searching around for days looking for something to blog about, and then a prominent news agency goes and drops something right in your lap. Such as this story from the Beeb.

It’s really quite an interesting conundrum. On the one hand we must agree that all religions have the right to practise and worship freely. But on the other, we must also respect the sensitivities of certain locations based on what has happened before. My own personal view is that the mosque should not be built, and I’ll explain why.

Yes, the proposed site is two blocks from Ground Zero. Yes, I’m in favour of advocating religious freedom. Yes, logically, these things should add up to me accepting the plans for the mosque, and, like Obama, preaching the necessity of religious tolerance. However, this case is different. This case is American, and involves the religion many still associate with the cause of the September 11th attack. Of course, this association is born out of naivity and foolishness (suddenly I remember the West Wing’s analogy – Al Qaeda is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity), but nonetheless it is still prevalent. The disaster happened eight years ago. The wounds, I feel, are still raw, and the passion still runs high. The consequences of the attack are still being felt in Afghanistan and Iraq. Blood is still being spilt due to the attack on America. The situation, despite promises from politicians shows no sign of ending any time soon. If we add all this together we have a potentially hostile situation developing in New York, at a site which, in my opinion should be used as some form of war memorial.

And herein lies my biggest concern about the building of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. The users of the building will not be safe. The plans are already encountering difficulties and objections from the people who can object to it, politicians and press alike. Can you really imagine what it will be like in a few years time when the building is actually opened? Can you imagine the numbers of people who will be abusive towards the builders as they are erecting the mosque into the sky? Can you imagine the continued police presence around the site most of the time just to ensure that the project gets completed? I can, and whilst I acknowledge that there may be a great deal of speculation in what I’m imagining, I still maintain that the results will be problematic. The building is going to bring out the elements of American society which are conveniently swept under the rug. They are going to be vociferous, angry, and most likely, violent. The Muslims who come to use this mosque are going to be subjected to a barrage of abuse because of where the mosque is situated, and the connotations of the site. They will be users of the highest profile mosque in the world, and they will be acutely aware of this.

There is a comparison to be made, albeit a local one. The plans for a new mosque in Dudley have been met with a chorus of widespread disapproval, which culminated in a violent protest march earlier on in the year. This has raised tensions in Dudley, and is likely to continue to do so. I fear that this could be repeated in America, but on a larger scale, and with many more problems.

The simple solution, as I see it, is not to create such a problem in the first place. I’d suggest a relocation of the mosque to somewhere less controversial. I’d suggest not doing anything to antagonise a potentially hostile situation. I’d suggest leaving the Ground Zero site free of religious connotations. There is a bigger issue though, that of education and religious intolerance. The solution to this problem will take many more years to find I fear.

From Scratch…

5 08 2010

The difficulty in writing a dissertation is that you have to read an awful lot of stuff, of which most is largely irrelevant to what you want to find out. After all, the point is that you are doing original research, so the answer aren’t going to be laid out in black and white in a book in front of you.

As a consequence you find that time to read other things becomes more limited, which means that the stuff you do read tends to stick with you. Just like this article, which appeared in the Telegraph a few weeks ago. It is really quite an interesting insight into the redevelopment of Rwanda after all the horrors which the country suffered from in the past tewnty years.

As I read the article I was equally impressed and appalled, which, judging from the article’s title, I suppose was sort of the point. I don’t know what to think of Kagame. I don’t know whether to be impressed with all that has happened to Rwanda since the genocide, or whether to be concerned about the continuing role of an educated dictator in a war-torn environment. I don’t know whether to like Kagame for all that has been achieved under his rule, or fearful that when he departs, the country may collapse around itself once more.

I remember watching Kagame on Top Gear a while ago. In fact, I think I may even have blogged about him then. It was a confusing issue then, and remains so. Are we supposed to like this man, this leader who has dragged Rwanda from civil war into the twenty-first centruy almost single handedly? Or are we meant to criticise him for being another of the world’s dictators, controlling a country through a regime of fear masked by democracy?

Or perhaps that is not the point. Perhaps the point is that we are just meant to watch, like the world did in the 90’s. Perhaps Rwanda doesn’t need or want the help of the MEDC’s. Perhaps we are meant to accept the role of Kagame in Rwandan history, take him for all his merits and problems.

Perhaps though the point of the article was not even that deep. Perhaps we are just meant to remember. To remember all the things which happened in Rwanda, to not forget that an incomparable genocide happened in this country not so very long ago, and its redevelopment in such a short space of time is remarkable. Perhaps we are meant to simply remember that there is an African country which should be held up as a beacon for the continent.

Of course, the timing of the publication of the article was significant. Whilst the eyes of the world were on South Africa for a month or more, it is easy to forget that the rest of the continent continutes to suffer under various ailments. It is easy, and convenient to forget Darfur. It is easy, and convenient to forget Zimbabwe and Mugabe. It is easy and convenient to forget HIV, drug smuggling, illegal gangs, blood diamonds, the gun trade.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the article was there to remind us of the two sides of Africa, so ably epitomised by Kagame. On the one hand there is a man, country and continent moving forward, developing at a pretty impressive rate. But on the other there is darkness, there is militia, there are guns, violence and death. There is the undercurrent of fear and forceful control of the people. There are continuing medical issues.

And perhaps that is the point, Kagame is not the finished product. It is likely to be almost impossible to change the mindset of a country in such a short period of time. His dictatorial control is perhaps necessary to resurrect the country, to drag it away from its past. Perhaps, in some cases, democracy can only be built upon the strength of a few. The past was horrific, the future is intriguing.