Happy Jassa Singh (no relation) Ramgarhia birthday everyone!
Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was a brave, noble, fair Sikh leader. He fought against the ruthless, bad, evil Mughal Emperors and their dastardly minions, who were from another religion that I'm not going to name but that's not as nice as Sikhism. He also fought against the evil, ruthless, bad Afghan invaders, who were also from a religion that's not as nice as Sikhism.
It was because the people loved the Sikhs that Sikhs rose from being a tiny, persecuted but good minority, to eventually becoming sovereign rulers of the Punjab. Indeed, even the Afghan warlords admitted that Sikhs were brave, noble and fair and deserved a bit of Afghanistan, until the Taliban took it off them by getting more love from the people than Sikhs got.
As American commanders take charge of British troops (in a move that in no way reflects on British leadership and is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about), Afghan leaders are meeting to discuss how to involve the Taliban (in a move that in no way implies surrender or that we just can't be bothered any more).
Coalition forces need to gain the love of the people the way Sikhs did in Punjab. Otherwise the Taliban will gain the love of the people instead and they'll end up back in charge.
Tuesday, 1 June, 2010, 03:33 PM - ClemmiesThere are really only two contenders this month. The first is Rhidian Brook with his truly awful, irritating prose.
The other one can only be, with what must be a very strong contender for Platitude Of The Year 2010, Clifford Longley and his assertion that the Roman Catholic Church really isn't that bad when it comes to its treatment of homosexuals. There are several documented cases of it actually treating homosexuals with a modicum of respect. It's really quite nice to homosexuals if you look carefully. Indeed, it's quite fair to say that the RCC is at the very forefront of seeking to liberalise and equalise gay rights and always has been.
Well done Clifford! Show them how it's done!
Isn't the violence against the Gaza aid convoy just terrible? We don't know exactly what happened yet, but we do know that ten people are dead and many more, including Israeli soldiers are injured.
When is violence acceptable? Some say, only as a last resort. Others say, only as a first resort, before all other diplomatic channels have been explored.
Jesus was a pacifist, or possibly not. It rather depends which bit you read and which policy you would like to justify.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King were definitely both pacifists, just like Jesus, except when he wasn't. Sometimes pacifists deliberately provoke violence, like when Gandhi's supporters volunteered to be clubbed to death by the British Empire to show what uncivilised brutes they were. Maybe that's what the Gaza aid convoy had in mind?
It's enough to make you want to have a small glass of sherry.
Recent events in Bradford have revived older memories of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and his targeting of prostitutes in Sheffield.
Jesus was a big fan of prostitutes and regularly hung out with them. Although there was none of "that" going on, absolutely no hanky-panky whatsoever. Nothing more than an occasional foot massage with rare and expensive oils. Certainly nothing going on above the ankle. In fact, I'm quite certain that, despite being a true man, Jesus never let his hormones get the best of him. That would be a most un-Messiah like thing to do.
Anyway, back to prostitutes. My first parish was in the red light district of Sheffield. Night after night I had to endure that revolting parade of female flesh. Many were on drugs and, finding that nursing as a career did not provide an adequate income, had resorted to selling themselves in order to fund their drug habit.
Given the physical abuse suffered by many sex workers, some parishioners were sympathetic. Others had more Christianly concern for the effect that kerb crawlers and discarded condoms would have on property prices.
I am now going to reveal to you the startling truth that I discovered as a young vicar in Sheffield: prostitutes are people too! Presumably this is why men pay to have sex with them. The price commanded for sex with non-humans is considerably lower (so they tell me). Now that you are aware of this fact, you will realise that drug rehabilitation programmes are important. I'm sure the new money saving government will attach a high priority to them.
Monday, 31 May, 2010, 06:39 AM - Not TFTDAbdus Salam was one of the giants of 20th century physics. He won the Nobel prize for his work in helping to unify the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. He made outstanding contributions to teaching science in his native Pakistan and throughout the world.
After his death, his body was returned to Pakistan. The inscription on his tomb initially read "First Muslim Nobel Laureate", but because he was an Ahmadi Muslim, declared "non-Muslim" in 1974 in Pakistan, fanatical clerics had the word "Muslim" removed to leave the ridiculous inscription "First Nobel Laureate".
Ahmadi Muslims have their passport stamped "non-Muslim" so that they, just like the rest of us kaffirs, can never visit Mecca or Medina and can never fulfil their religious obligations.
The madness continues.
Sunday, 30 May, 2010, 07:21 AM - Not TFTDI have mixed feelings about this "affair". David Laws is clearly an intelligent and industrious man: a first in Economics from Cambridge, vice-president of J.P. Morgan before he was 30, managing director of Barclays de Zoete Wedd. He gave up what would undoubtedly have been a highly lucrative career to go into politics.
On paper he was the ideal candidate to act as Chief Secretary to the Treasury. He had considerable support from his Conservative coalition partners, perhaps even more so than among the traditional, tree hugging Liberals of the left. His economics and banking background ensured that he was well placed to appreciate the impact on the financial world of any cuts in services or increases in taxes. But I'm not so sure that he was so ideal. The treasury is stuffed full of economists, mathematicians, statisticians and computer modellers. The benefit of one more is hardly likely to make much of a difference.
On the other hand, everyone knows that painful cuts are on the way, cuts that will affect everyone, except perhaps millionaire bankers. Personally, I would prefer someone in the post who might feel some of the pressure of those cuts, who has to rely on their local GP rather than a Harley Street specialist, who has at least one friend who relies on housing or incapacity benefit to make ends meet.
The manner of David Laws' defenestration from government seems particularly curious. As one commenter on the Guardian put it, many MPs were standing behind the "it was within the rules" argument last year while merrily ripping off the taxpayer at every opportunity. Laws' case is the exact opposite. He claimed far less than he was entitled to but did so in a way that was a clear breach of the rules. His lover benefited from taxpayers' money when the rules said that only a stranger should benefit. In this case, the taxpayer isn't actually out of pocket.
I can't help wondering just how much of a state of denial Laws was in? Did he still feel guilty, thanks once again to an upbringing in the Catholic Church, about his relationship with his landlord? I'm not someone who thinks outing the rich and powerful is a legitimate pastime. People have to to feel comfortable with who they are and have to come to that in their own time and on their own terms. But did David Laws really believe that he could keep his personal life private while occupying such a high profile position in government?
He had to resign. There was no way that a millionaire banker who had broken expenses rules could lecture the country on the painful cutbacks they had to endure. I hope he manages to enjoy his new life, free of guilt and living openly with the person he loves and I hope in due course he can rejoin the government where his intelligence and hard work can be put to good use, but not as number 2 at the treasury.
As a little side issue, we're left pondering why the government was so desperate that Laws shouldn't appear on Question Time on Thursday night with Alistair Campbell?
Seventy years ago, 300,000 British troops were evacuated from Dunkirk via an armada of small ships. They were welcomed home as heroes despite their crippling military defeat at the hands of the German army.
Churchill took to the radio. The country hoped he would tell us things were not as bad as they seemed, but far from giving us good news, Churchill emphasised the immensity of the task ahead. Invasion was imminent. The odds were heavily stacked against us. There would be nothing but blood, sweat, toil and tears ahead, but no matter what the cost, we would never surrender.
We had been optimistic at the start of the war, but this sudden dose of reality gave the country a new vigour, a new determination. As the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend said, the truth will set you free. The comfort blanket had to go. There was to be no more wishful thinking, no baseless optimism about a long and blissful future, no dreams that some magic solution would help solve our problems. Just like the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend said, this was stark reality now, time to face facts. Our fate was in our own hands from now on.
There's a big Buddhist festival today. Happy Wesak everyone!
Buddha was just an ordinary bloke who was fed up with life. Life was difficult, life was a struggle, for most people it was nasty, brutish and short. He tried all the existing religions. They recommended a good bit of self-flagellation or starvation, thus making normal life seem relatively pleasant, but this didn't make him any happier.
So he invented meditation. I'm not going to call it meditation, or even mention the word "meditation" because there are some people who think that's all we Buddhists ever talk about. Well it's not true. We talk about all sorts of things, like chanting and beads and incense and sandals, a wide range of contemporary and interesting topics.
So Buddha was busy
Wouldn't it all just be nicer if people were nicer to each other?
You know it's monotonous, when a famous writer, celebrity and Christian improvises an absurdly clumsy attempt to mix poetry and prose.
You know it's pedestrian, when a Thought For The Day presenter turns to the one subject that's even more interesting than religion.
You know it's repetitive, when people start shouting the name of some country called Ing-a-laand and singing "La-la, lala la la-la" to the tune of Colonel Bogey.
You know that it's coming, when the quote "They think it's all over... it is now," is repeated on every major news programme for a month.
You know it's predictable, the inevitable recriminations when they lose.
You know it's unbelievable, when they say this is a tremendous opportunity for Africa and will do far more to help that stricken continent's problems than Live Aid and Glen Eagles combined.
You know it's exploitative, when some kid from Rwanda proudly wears an Arsenal shirt bearing the name of a player who earns more in a week than they will in a lifetime.
You know it's hypocritical, when players pray to the Invisible Magic Friend for victory in a game instead of for those who really could benefit from such a thing as divine grace.
You know it's ridiculous, when someone uses words like "transcendent" to describe a sporting event.
You know it's a lie, when those who don't speak in hushed and hallowed tones about football are dismissed as cynics.
You know you really do need to get a sense of proportion, it's only a bit of fun.
You know it's the World Cup.
Limited freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. Recently, Britain's libel laws have been tested in two prominent cases. Dr Simon Singh (no relation, even though he's also a Dr. Singh, just like me) was eventually cleared of libelling the British Chiropractic Association. His Holiness Sant Baba Jeet Singh Ji Maharaj (also called Singh, but this one's not a Dr. like I am - still no relation) attempted to sue Hardeep Singh (not a Dr. like I am - no relation).
The libel laws are there to limit freedom of speech by protecting individuals and institutions from factually inaccurate defamation, but these cases illustrate that they're too strong. Limited freedom of speech will have to be a bit less limited from now on. As Voltaire said (even though no one can actually find where he said it) "You may be a blithering idiot sir but I will defend to the death your right to limited freedom of speech."
One of the Sikh Gurus actually did defend to the death the right of Hindus to limited freedom of speech. That's right, he actually defended limited freedom of speech for people from a completely different religion (which just goes to show what a wonderful religion Sikhism is).
Many brave people have fought and died to give us the limited freedom of speech we enjoy today. So what should you not do with your limited freedom of speech? Well you certainly shouldn't defame the weak and the helpless. And you shouldn't set out to hurt other people by, oh I don't know - as a random example - mocking their religion by saying it's all either silly or obvious. We need stronger libel laws to prevent that sort of thing.
While you must certainly never yield your limited freedom of speech to those who would try to intimidate you into silence (and I have no particular religion in mind here), you shouldn't go around irresponsibly criticising silly things.
I'm so glad I live in a country with limited freedom of speech.