Life & Liberty

Life, Words and Freedom

Category: Real Life

Dusk in South London

I’ve grown up on this estate in South London. Its full of unexpected jewels and dark secrets but with this collection I want to show how blocks of flats can be intimate and colourful as well as big and expressionless. There is no glamour in growing up here, but I do think it has an element of beauty. The buildings are symmetrical, street lights dot the darkness and the skyline is ultimately urban but with glimpses of nature such as trees and birds.

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The Immortals: What they signal for Europe’s future

The Immortals flashmob Berlin, April 2012

With white masks, black hoods and fire lit torches you could be forgiven for mistaking this group of right wing extremists for a Da Vinci Code re-enactment of sorts, but you would be wrong.

The Immortals are a German neo-Nazi group who specialise in publicising their fascist views through the use of flash mobs and they are becoming popular with students and the middle classes in Germany.

With a catchy motto and their stylised flash mob appearances The Immortals are tapping in to a growing sentiment in Germany that the German race needs protection from ‘outsiders’.

“Your Life is Short, Make it Immortal”

Germany isn’t the only country experiencing a rise in fascism. In Greece and Hungary extremely conservative political parties are achieving seats in Parliament and their popularity is growing. With the German public turning to socially conservative groups because of  economic instability it begs the question: can history repeat itself? Adolf Hitler sold a dream to financially struggling and displaced young Germans in the 1930’s, are modern neo-Nazi groups doing the same?

The People’s Association – Golden Dawn in Greece is a conservative extremist political organization and party and they have succeed in gaining 18 seats in Parliament since the General Election in 2012. They garner support from the Greek public by using a manifesto based on concerns for austerity and the economy, unemployment as well as fierce anti-immigration rhetoric. Racist attacks on immigrants have risen increasingly.

Exposed by Channel Four for having fascist ideologies and neo-Nazi beliefs they set up soup kitchens to attract support from white ethnic Greeks struggling to make ends meet. They recruit youngsters through the Golden Dawn Youth Front who distribute fliers with nationalist messages in Athens schools, even setting up a concert ‘Rock Against Communism’ to draw in young support. Gruesome racist rhetoric is used by party members to explain what they’d like to do to immigrants.

Golden Dawn Party Flag

“”We are ready to open the ovens. We will turn them into soap .. to wash cars and pavements. We will make lamps from their skin”

Alexandros Plomaritis, a Golden Dawn candidate in the 2012 election

Europe is facing a new battle and it is using children and politics as the battleground. Just as in Greece, the German neo-Nazi groups target children and youths to carry their message forth and indoctrinate them. They target children by using summer youth camps as a place to instruct them on how to live as pure Aryans and rid Germany of ‘non-Germans’.

“We want to keep the German people alive with our own biological vitality…Imagine a country called Germany that’s filled only with Africans, with us importing nice little sweet n****r children”

Udo Pastörs, Deputy Leader of the National Democratic Party of Germany

Modern day neo-Nazis use text messaging, social media, social networks and technology to spread racist and fascist messages to young people and those they target are young children, students and unemployed youth and the middle classes. They are deliberately recruiting educated people so that the movement can call on their skills as Lawyers or Doctors in times of need.  The technology and social media outlets they use as well as the flash-mobs mean the spread of their ideologies is far quicker than Hitler could ever have dreamed of.

The Holocaust does not feature in the Jobbik Party manifesto in Hungary. Jobbik is intent on making sure Jews do not invade their precious motherland. It is also Hungary’s third largest political party. The trade union of Hungarian police officers prepared for action allegedly printed in their newsletter:

“Given our current situation, anti-Semitism is not just our right, but it is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover, and we must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.”

Judit Szima, a Jobbik candidate for the European Union in 2009 and Editor of the newsletter

An Israeli newspaper inquired into Szima’s view on the matter and found that she “didn’t see anything wrong with the content of the article”. Szima also ran as a candidate for the Jobbik Party in the the 2009 European Union election.

The fact that an extremist far-right party has such congenial relations with the Hungarian police force is surely a cause for concern. By definition the police force of any country should behave on behalf of the government in charge, not the third largest political party in the country.

Allegedly Krisztina Morvai, a proposed future nominee for the position of the president of Hungary, had something to say of Hungarian Jews’ opinions of her saying in an open letter to a Jewish New Yorker that she…

“would be glad if the so-called proud Hungarian Jews went back to playing with their tiny circumcised dicks instead of vilifying me”

Between 2003-2006 Morvai was a member of the Women’s Anti-discrimination Committee of the United Nations. Educated at Kings College London and graduating with a degree in Law, Morvai does not outwardly seem to fit the neo-Nazi stereotype. She is well educated, articulate and ‘liberal’. In 1989 she received the first ever British Government scholarship for students in central Europe and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher personally presented the award to her, not many fascists can boast that.

Krisztina Morvai

What her example shows is that there is a new breed of fascist. A highly educated fascist with the ability to locate mistrust and vulnerability in the population and divert those feelings towards anti-semitism and fascist ideologies. It is a dangerous mix. Neo-Nazis should no longer be viewed as skin head hooligans, they have evolved.

The poisonous, racist and anti-Semitic words of Morvai, Pastors and Plomaritis show that far-right extremism in Europe is entering a new phase in its history. Coupled with modern technology and economic instability Golden Dawn, Jobbik and The Immortals are creating a sinister and pervasive attitude in a Europe that has already been savaged and torn apart by two world wars.

Beate Zschaepe, 38, is currently on trial in Munich. Accused of being part of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) she is alleged to have had involvement in 15 armed robberies, arson and of attempted murder via two bomb attacks. She has been charged with involvement in the murders of eight ethnic Turks, a Greek immigrant and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

Beate Zschaepe

What is worrying about her trial is that the German secret service knew about her extremist cell and had tracked them yet they claim to have had no idea of her involvement in the murders of ethnic Turks. They claim to have believed they were carried out by the Turkish Mafia. There have been whispers that even the German secret service has right-wing sympathies and this has compounded the problem of rising neo-Nazism in Germany.

Governments are not doing enough to crush the emerging fascist movements and in Zschaepe’s case to even keep on top of neo-Nazi terrorists. Several high-ranking security officials that include the head of Germany’s secret service have resigned over blunders made during their tenure. Heads have rolled but has anything been learned?

Sebastian Edathy, the chairman of the investigation into German secret service failures, has said that the potential for far-right violence was massively underestimated even as some officers instinctively blamed the victims. This shambolic set of affairs on such a serious issue is frightening. Decisive action by governments is needed to quell the attraction to far-right extremists of the general populations of European countries.

Who stands to gain from the rise of political extremism in Europe? We know who will lose out if their power and influence grows – Jews and immigrants, but with collectively flaccid responses from Greek, Hungarian and German governments it doesn’t seem likely there will be improvements in their policies any time soon.

For the Channel 4 report on Golden Dawn click here

For information about help and support against anti-semitism click here

P.L.M.R

Woolwich, alienation and belonging

An articulate piece that pinpoints the conflict felt by young, disaffected men. It illustrates cultural discomfort and the wider implications of ignoring warning signs and delves deeper into the causes of cultural conflict in the UK today.

P.L.M.R

Catriona Robertson

After hearing Nick Clegg speak to a multi-religious audience on Friday, I went down to Woolwich.

I attended Juma prayers at the local mosque, bought a peace lily at Tesco’s and went to the place outside Woolwich Barracks where British soldier Lee Rigby was killed, in a particularly gruesome attack, two days earlier.

The peace lily, on behalf of London Boroughs Faiths Network, joined hundreds of other flowers around the railings and in spite of the pouring rain people kept arriving to pay their respects.

I was with two Muslim friends who laid flowers in memory of the young Fusilier – Julie Siddiqi for the Islamic Society of Britain and Dr Shuja Shafi for the Muslim Council of Britain.  Another friend, Siriol Davies, who works closely with several mosques in south London, also laid flowers.

Although the media swirl has revolved around Islam and terrorism, the video footage…

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Rude Tube

The London Underground is a hostile place. Its dog-eat-dog during rush hour, forcing yourself on to a tube crammed full of business suits and wafts of body odour drifting around your nose isn’t pleasant.

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You would have thought Londoners understand that travelling to work on the tube entails sacrifice of personal space, unpleasant smells and getting your shoes dirty; not for some…

On the journey to work one morning this week I was  pleased at how my daily commute was going. I had a seat on the first available tube, it wasn’t too hot in the carriage and I had enough room to read the morning news on my phone. Then a woman sitting next to me kicked the man standing in the aisle in front of her really hard.

I was shocked that she kicked him so hard but I was even more shocked at what came out her mouth next “You knew I was going to kick you because you’ve stood in my foot twice already, what the fuck is wrong with you”

The man turned around and said that he was sorry he hadn’t noticed to which she replied “Yes you did dickhead, you knew you had stood on my foot, obviously I’m going to kick you” Ridiculous.

I’ve clearly been living away from London too long because I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. As a born and bred Londoner, having gone to secondary school in Central London, I know full well what the morning rush hour involves. This woman was also a Londoner, a south London accent wouldn’t escape me anywhere. So why was she being such a bitch?

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What should this toe-treading gentleman have done instead of the docile apology he produced. What would Boris Johnson have done? Would he have issued a meek response or responded with a sharp dismissal? Would Ken Livingstone have handled the situation in a more approriate manner? Livingstone is known for using public transport regularly so I would be interested to hear his view on the way Londoners treat each other.

The amount of anti-social  behaviour I have witnessed riding the tube throughout the years has been hilarious. I love London Underground but my god are there some hilarious stories.

I’ve seen people’s bags get caught in closing doors because they were to busy chatting to a mate, only to have the tube depart the platform with the bag still hanging out until the next stop. Drunken revellers indulging in explicit sexual encounters in full view of other passengers with not a care in the world. Public domestic arguments about affairs and other topics to the enjoyment of a fully occupied carriage. The most frequent distasteful behaviour though is probably the worst…men who watch female passengers applying make up on their way to work and masturbate under a newspaper. This is unfortunately a regular occurrence.

But seeing a fully grown woman kick another passenger simply for unknowingly stepping on her toes, that shocked even me. The normal reaction would have been to say “Excuse me, you have stepped on my foot a couple of times now, please don’t do it again” but in London maybe thats not good enough for some, the unforgiving rush hour claimed another victim when this man boarded the train.

I wanted to tell her to shut up and stop being so childish but, having seen a recent trend of videos on YouTube of racist and abusive passengers ranting at people on the tube, I decided against it, I didn’t want the hassle of getting involved in someone else’s battle purely on principle. With hindsight I would have liked to have said something.

When friends or partners decide to treat each other with disregard in public it is a bit of a social faux-pas, but its just embarrassing to see London folk treating each other like this. Just because we live in the biggest city in Europe, doesn’t mean we have to behave like children just to protect our personal space. It doesn’t quite scream Olympic spirit.

Social Psychology teaches us that society is what relates us to other people, in the sense that we have something in common with other people. Its argued that human beings follow the rules that society prescribe to us. All individuals influence society to the same extent, which results in the fact that you cannot have an individual without influence from society and there cannot be a society without influence from individuals.

With this in mind, what or who influenced this woman to behave in an aggressive mode of Londonism? Is it the way the city works in general, how badly her morning had gone or the job she hates? Maybe it was just the type of person who stepped on her feet. It could even have been Boris’s smug face smiling back at her from the Metro…

After putting her headphones back in and muttering “Prick” under her breath the journey continued to the next stop in awkward silence, the rest of the carriage having been witness  to her outburst also seemed to me to be a bit embarrassed that they too hadn’t said anything about her rude behaviour.

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Next time I will say something, or maybe I’ll film it, either way I don’t want to be that person who by failing to hold rude people to account tarnishes my hometown’s reputation. London is a big and exciting city full of uniques experiences, this experience is unfortunately not unique and it would be a shame if people thought that Londoners are ok with being treated like this by their own.

For information on Transport for London visit their site  here. Read interesting updates and events on the tube here and find tube tales, facts and miscellanea about London Underground check out the Facebook page here

Get in touch if you have any funny or unusual stories about travelling on the tube, I’m sure everyone must have at least one…

P.L.M.R

All Photos © P.L.M.R 2013