The History’s Dog

‘Man bites dog’ is the first principle learnt at uni. Thought I could never fully picture the concept, I always imagined the breed of dog which would make man resort to such extreme behaviour. Despite its metaphoric connotation, ‘man vs dog’ has proven to be a successful broadcasting formula for decades. With time, the ‘dog’ matters less, other realities take its place.

News moves with fluidity on the axis entertainment – truth value. It becomes irrelevant that the closer to entertainment, the further we slide away from reality. Whilst audiences are locked in a labyrinth of breaking news and data, most people have little time to investigate what goes on in the real world. It is not surprising that among the most googled questions are what time is it?, is it going to rain today?, how can I make money? and what is my name?. Who has the luxury to look beyond? We trust that journalists have it, and they should take the responsibility upon themselves to bring forward the missing parts of our world. And they do.

© Committee to Protect Journalists, 2019.

Without their work, I wouldn’t have known that, between 1997-2006, 378 journalists were killed doing their job. I wouldn’t have known that Wikileaks was already one year old in 2007, three months had passed since Anna Politovskaya was shot dead in front of her flat, a new diplomatic row started between London and Moscow (over Britain’s bid for extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, an ex-KGB agent accused of Litvinenko’s murder), that Russia suspended participation in the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces Treaty in Europe (a treaty that limits the deployment of heavy military equipment across Europe.)

I wouldn’t have remembered that the EU expanded with two more states, Romania and Bulgaria, Barack Obama was in full presidential campaign and Gordon Brown moved from 11 to 10 Downing Street. 2007, a few months till the Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy, which triggered global recession. The Doomsday Clock was moved to five minutes to midnight in response to North Korean renewed nuclear ambitions and tests. The War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War, in full swing.

These are facts from a distant past now. History. It is already history that between 2007-2016, 612 journalists were killed doing their job. Almost double than the previous decade. History too, last week’s sigh of relief watching Notre-Dame saved by a near-miracle. In the meantime, history added a new name to statistics: Lyra McKee.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Advertisements

Sonata

 

Violet, by Vasily Kandinsky, 1923, Russian French Expressionist print, lithograph. Geometrical elements, circles, arcs, triangles, straight lines and curves, mix with irregular hand drawn forms in this abstract lithograph (BSLOC_2017_5_148)
1923 / Mary Evans Picture Library

 

 

It starts with a study in curves.

 

Lost in broad daylight, I think

in intimate terms about pencils,

sharpened by a schoolboy

oblivious to Barthes’ empire.

 

Time, the only thing I have not.

 

I shall pray for you she hissed, leaving.

Ashes to ashes I laugh,

turn the machine off, move

closer to anger.

 

Hands, metal, ankles, metal, eye. Metal! Nerves.

 

I practise benign indifference.

 

I learn about human squares and circles,

underline the connective distance

between something lost

and something irreplaceable.

 

© Maria Stadnicka, published at Mary Evans Picture Library.

Euro Vision and Eurovision #Flashnews (Part V)

©John Stadnicki, 2019

The first signs of European meltdown are showing the crude side of politics. Ukraine will not take part in this year’s Eurovision Song contest. A shame. I like Ukrainian music, but the singer Maruv pulled out, over disagreements about imposed conditions by the Ukrainian national broadcaster. The Russian delegation is considering its position, though they are completely oblivious to all this, knowing well ‘you need to be in it, to win it.’

I suppose many overlook the fact that the whole point of Eurovision was to rebuild a war-torn continent in the mid 50s. It should have been outside politics and scandal. To my shame, though, I’m guilty of overlooking many things about Eurovision too.

I’m used to ignoring Eurovision, although I kind of expect it to happen. I have the same love-hate relationship with it, as I have with the weather forecast. I know it happens after each news bulletin so, by the time the presenter shows the maps, I switch off and check the weather on my mobile phone.

This time though, with Brexit looming, I remember that Eurovision has been going on for ages. And it has been about politics. For ages too. This realisation helps me understand why the Brexit Backstop is the real ‘apple of discord’ in the negotiations between the British and the European technocrats.

By the end of the day, Ireland has won Eurovision seven times. An absolute record. Britain only five times, with its most recent victory registered over 21 years ago. As it stands so far, both Ireland and the UK kept their places secure at Eurovision 2019.

I dread to think what would happen if Britain wins and London has to host Eurovision 2020. Or, another dreadful possibility, the Brexit Backstop stays in place and Ireland wins Eurovision again.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in International Times on 16 March 2019.

The Euro Vision and the Gold Rush #Flashnews (part IV)

@JohnStadnicki, 2019. London.

Over a month ago, the media pointed out that the price of gold increased again. A sign that investors are using gold against weaker stocks, as a response to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the trade disputes around the world. But even a child knows that when gold starts shining, it is a sign of trouble ahead.

The recent Brexit developments send waves of worry throughout Europe, whilst governments across the English Channel are increasingly interested in taking back control over their money.

Only a year ago, the National Bank of Hungary took back three tons of the country’s national gold reserves stored at the Bank of England. The decision followed similar reactions from Austria, Germany, Holland and Venezuela, which considered storing the national gold reserves in London a risky decision.

For a few days now, the Romanian authorities have been debating whether to take back their sixty tonnes of gold stored in the London vaults. With the crisis of storage space the British authorities have been facing for years, I imagine that storing a country’s national gold is not cheap.

Sixty tonnes is, by any means, a lot. Imagine ten elephants put together, if one takes the average weight of one elephant at around six tonnes. To put it simply though, the average weight of 15 people together, say, in an elevator, is about one tonne. By the same logic, sixty tonnes of Romanian gold is about 900 Romanian migrants, currently living in London.

What would be the weight in gold of 300,000 Romanian migrants currently in the UK? And what about the 3.7 million European migrants, in the UK? Imagine that gold! Imagine the value!

But in this equation, and in all Brexit negotiations, who is looking at what value people have, when financial interests are at stake?

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019.

Published in International Times, 9/03/19.

Witness

At the supermarket’s meat counter,

they sell ropes. Yellow and blue.

Things we need when weather turns bad.

One could never be sure when the boat

needs tying off to a cleat.

At checkout, we talk of hurricane Ursula.

It was in the news, it is now by the docks.

My bottled green sea resting on shelves.

 

Across the aisle, a woman looks out.

Trains deliver milk and morning newspapers;

at the end of his shift, a night watchman

lights a cigarette watching umbrellas running

to shelter. He has nowhere else. His children

sent him a blank telegram. Monochrome winds,

he thinks. Time to repair, to build.

The house he was born in no longer exists.

 

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in Social Alternatives, Queensland, Vol. 37, No. 3.

On Euro Vision and the Migration Strategy #Flashnews (part III)

©John Stadnicki, 2019.

In 2012, Theresa Mary May (née Brasier) was just a mere Home Secretary. She was under pressure from David William Donald (née Cameron), who was fighting Nigel Paul (née Farage) on the electoral front, to do something about the migration data. And she had an idea which got her a few brownie points from the PM. ‘Dave, why not produce a hostile environment for undocumented migrants,’ she said, to which the PM responded ‘Well done, Theresita, that’s my girl.’ And, as simple as that, the hostile environment strategy was conceived on a sofa in 10 Downing Street, and later on ended up being implemented.

The strategy is up and running since 2016. The Guardian(ed. 16th Feb. 2019) reports that the Home Office is attempting to embed immigration officers at a rate of almost £60 an hour as part of an ‘enhanced checking service.’ The service is available to public services, including NHS trusts and local authorities, as well as private firms. Over the past two and a half years, Home Office officers have been deployed to test the policy. But the strategy is not just about ‘enhanced checking.’

Institutions and organisations are offered ‘real-time’ access to information about someone’s immigration status as well as ‘on-site immigration official.’ The on-site officer can attend interviews and can encourage undocumented migrants to leave the country voluntarily. There is no public information about the methods used to encourage people to leave but, hopefully, with the media’s pressure, the Home Office will release further details.

I will not explore any further how the public funds are used under the pretext of national security. The governmental misjudgement and funding misplacement are, by now, legendary locally and Europeanly. And the Home Office’s policies seem to fit well a system based on miscommunication and misunderstanding.

There is something more bothersome I came across not very long ago. A few weeks ago, I came to understand that a young British citizen, travelling by train from London to Paris, managed to cross the border without a passport. The UK Border Agency let the young Brit off on the basis that the teenager was travelling as part of the group and had a scanned copy of his passport saved on a laptop. Although getting out of the country was easy, coming back from Paris a few days later created a bit of a problem at the Parisian train station. But the British citizen managed to get back to Britain on his scanned document, whilst the UK Border Agency’s officer warned the eyewitnesses that he would put a complaint against the section of the UK Border Agency which had let the person travel in the first place. Well, who is going to check that such a complaint was actually put forward?

The questions this incident brings forward are numerous. The issue of ‘legality’ in such a case would be the first, followed by the problem with the Home Office’s wasted funds on ‘monitorisation.’ And there are rhetorical points here. What is the point in having passports, if one could just travel without? Would a migrant have been allowed to travel from the UK to Europe and vice-versa without a passport? If I turn up at Heathrow or St. Pancras with just a scanned copy of my passport, will I manage to cross the border without problems? (to be continued)

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019

Published in International Times on 2/3/2019.

On Fashion and Euro Vision #Newsblitz (part II)

©John Stadnicki, 2019, Paris

I spy with my little eye something beginning with…..P. [I can see you looking around.] YES! Correct! You spotted them too. P-rotests.

Three months of P-rotests in France. The revolt started in November last year with the ‘gilets jaunes.’ The P-rotesters have called for lower fuel taxes, reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, a minimum wage increase, the implementation of Citizens’ initiative referendum and Emmanuel Macron‘s resignation as P-resident of France. From yellow vests, the social unrest extended to include the ‘red P-ens’ when six teachers launched an online campaign against low P-ay and untackled aggression against teachers in schools and colleges. In a few weeks, the movement gathered over sixty thousand members, demanding P-ay renegotiations and P-olicy changes.

©John Stadnicki, 2019, Paris

Further on, from ‘red P-ens’ to ‘red scarves.’ At the end of last month, a counter-demonstration occurred in Paris by a group identifying themselves by the ‘foulards rouges’ (red scarves) they chose to wear. The ‘red scarves’ are against the ‘yellow vests’ and reject the threats and verbal abuse aimed, they say, at non-yellow vests.

At the moment, it might be tricky to wear something in France without making a P-olitical statement. And maybe for this alone, not long ago, Britain chose to offer France a different approach to expressing discontent.

You might recollect, on 8thFebruary, John Humphrys (who’d just announced his P-robable retirement from Radio Four) blushing over his microphone, when questioning the naked anti-Brexit campaigner. And during their discussion someone mentioned another word starting with P. This time was…P-rude. Whether John Humphrys is a P-rude or not is a matter of P-ersonal life, therefore irrelevant here. The media reported the rattling sounds in the studio, others were offended for having to imagine stark nakedness so early in the morning.

A week later though, nothing really changed. We are back to our daily routine, whilst Westminster is holding its nerve. Would you have imagined that a naked campaigner could P-rovoke a change in Britain, when thousands of P-rotesters and bloodshed fail to move an entire French government? I have to admit, I P-erversely thought that it could. P-ossibly. Despite my misplaced P-erversity, or hope, I sense the slow built-up towards a national nervous breakdown. (to be continued)

Published in International Times on 23/02/2019.

©Maria Stadnicka, 2019