Life & Liberty

Life, Words and Freedom

Category: The Big Picture

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

Advertisements

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…

View original post 771 more words

The Execution of Colonialism

In a world without colonial ’empires’ is it still ok for London to control other parts of the world?

Take their house, boat, their bling…” just don’t take their life…?

Baroness Scotland has urged Jamaica to abolish the death penalty. It is  easy for British citizens to understand they are expected to heed and observe British law and all the punishments that come with breaking it. If you are from a Caribbean Island that still has its court of appeal based in London however, you may feel differently.

Does London have the right to tell other countries who they can and can’t kill?

Amnesty International conducted a report in 2011. Four people were sentenced to death that year but no executions were carried out. The Jamaican government wants to reverse a 1993 ruling by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that execution after five years on death row is inhuman and degrading. Capital punishment takes the form of hanging in Jamaica.

The Privy Council has been viewed by some critics as a court that actively frustrates the execution of the death penalty, which, at least nominally, remains on the books of most Caribbean territories, despite very few hangings in recent decades” David Rowe

Jamaica has taken appeals to the Privy Council since the 17th century. In overseas territories like Jamaica where the death penalty is still in use, the Privy Council in London holds supreme judicial power over final rulings, even though capital punishment in the UK was abolished in 1965.

West Indian islands like Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have seen homicide rates rise considerably over the last 20 years with Jamaica having the highest murder rate in the world in 2005 with 1,674 murders.

That makes a murder rate of 58 per 100,000 people. In 2008 Jamaica’s Parliament voted to keep the death penalty. A moratorium had been in place since 1988 meaning all death sentences were suspended, the 2008 ruling reversed this.

On 2 April 1982 General Leopoldo Galtieri set in motion an invasion of the Falkland Islands. An embarrassing defeat followed for the Argentine Military regime and the beginning of what can now be described as a fully fledged democracy. 

649 Argentine military personnel lost their lives during the conflict that lasted 74 days, needless to say there is nothing that can be seen as benefitting Argentina from the short war.

Cristina-Fernandez de Kirchner

There is no doubt that the current President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, sees regaining sovereignty of the islands as a politically and strategically astute step in strengthening Argentina’s relevance on a global arena.

De Kirchner states her motive is to restore “territorial integrity” to the Argentine Republic, critics argue that natural resources recently found near the Falklands is the probable catalyst for fresh tensions between the two countries. 

What President De Kirchner, regardless of her motivations, has ceaselessly highlighted is the relevance of colonial jurisdiction. A letter to Prime minister David Cameron from De Kirchner in January 2013 quoted a United Nations in proclamation from 1960

“An end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”

Jamaican-American lawyer David Rowe says some jurists believe that the Privy Council is an important part of the Separation of Powers “investors are confident in it and Jamaicans, who generally do not trust their politicians, feel safer.”

Do Jamaican citizens believe they need a British judicial body to maintain stability in Jamaica? Rowe asks “Are we outsourcing justice because we cannot trust ourselves?“. It is this contentious point to which attention should be focused.

Do former colonial territories maintain the stability they long for by keeping a connection to their colonial roots? Distinguished Jamaican jurist Patrick Robinson who sees the fascination with the Privy Council as part of a Caribbean inferiority complex.

The Falkland Islanders voted in a referendum on March 12th 2013 to remain a British overseas territory. They share their highest court of appeal with Jamaica in Privy Council.

They may not have capital punishment, but they showed the world how they feel about colonialism and its remnants, they prefer it for the time being. The Caribbean islands that still adhere to colonial jurisdiction have not yet decided whether they are happy to have the Privy Council decide death row inmates fate.

Lady Justice  by Matthias Giesen


by Matthias Giesen

So what of colonialism in all its forms and manifestations? Why do countless commonwealth dominions still adhere to British law, or for that matter the British Crown? De Kirchner has ironically extolled the virtues of colonialism, but for some its clear that colonialism remains relevant and useful.

 

P.L.M.R 

The Rise of Eleanor Rigby Syndrome

On Monday 19th November 2012 the centre Brighton was bustling and busy as usual. People going about their day to day excursions, starting the working week as usual, the nights getting shorter and winter drawing in. As the afternoon advanced and the sun started to dim, something sad was discovered in a cream Victorian apartment in a road in central Brighton. A skeleton had been discovered with only a pair of socks on lying behind an armchair.

This was no suspicious death, this was an extremely sad example of a part of society that isn’t spoken of very often. Loneliness. The kind of loneliness that draws pity from your heart when you hear of a man being dead for two years and no one noticing. The sorrow you feel when you think of his days leading up to his early death at the age of 50 and what that must have entailed.

His neighbours said they hadn’t noticed when they hadn’t seen him for a while “We all keep ourselves to ourselves here, and we thought he’d moved out”. The first thing anyone suspected anything is when the housing association in charge of his tenency visited the property on account of arrears that had been left unpaid.

If only this was a rare case. It is sadly not, in fact the number of state welfare funerals rose from 36 in 2006/7 to 79 2011/12.

According to the General Lifestyle Survey published in 2011 after a 40 year project, adults aged 25-44 were five times more likely to be living alone in 2011 (10%) than they were in 1973 (2%).

The gentleman found in central Brighton last year was one of many people around the UK who had passed from being unknown into the unknown. No goodbyes, no words, no tears were used to mark his departure. No family or friends to be traced, hard as the council tried they could not connect him to any of the other 221,950 adult humans in Brighton, or anywhere else in Britain.

We live in a society saturated with connectivity, availability,social networks and more communication than ever. Email, smart phones, iPads, Skype, Twitter, Apps et al. The technology advance into the 21st century is unprecedented and mimics a revolution of its own, yet there are still people sitting alone night after night not having contact with anyone.

Not having a conversation with someone, maybe watching T.V all night until sleep takes over and they wake up the next day in the same place they fell asleep. Pouring alcohol into the emptiness they feel when they get back from the shop, having seen on the journey home a couple sharing a coffee and a kiss outside a cafe or friends laughing while they walk down the street .

In 1966 the single “Eleanor Rigby” was released by the Beatles, it spent four weeks at number one on the British charts. The lyrics are thought provoking and Lennon/McCartney capture a deep sense of melancholy from the death Eleanor Rigby. It is said to have been a song to express the void left in society post World War II, although it seems it is more applicable now than ever before. With a breakdown in community solidarity, especially in our densely populated, sprawling cities, the number of Eleanor Rigbys has increased.

In an article by Abi Jackson written for the Romford Recorder, Eleanor a 40 year old professional talks of her life outside of work “I can spend some weekends not speaking to a soul. I’m lucky to have a full, rich work life, but once I’m home I am very much alone, and sometimes the loneliness is crippling.” How can this be possible in 2013? It seems that although most of society are tweeting about what they had for dinner with their family or how great their holiday was with their friends, some individuals are finding it difficult to make connections with those around them.

What is it that has failed these people? Is it those they work with who have failed to notice the unhappy loneliness of a colleague? Is it the failings of a parent who didn’t love their child enough to stay in contact? Is it the way people form friendships now or even the kind of subcultures that are seen today.

Of course some people don’t like to be social, it is a lifestyle choice that doesn’t fit with the aspirational way of life for most Western societies, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. If one likes their own company and it doesn’t negatively impact their sense of well being then thats great. The problem faced here though is that most of the people who spend most of the time by themselves don’t choose to be that way. It happens and nobody notices.

In 2012 pages on mental health charity Mind’s website about loneliness were among the most-visited receiving around 80,000 visits. “People who are socially isolated are more likely to suffer stress, lower self esteem and sleep problems, and over a long period of time this can cause other problems like depression and anxiety if not resolved,” Head of Information at Mind, Bridget O’Connell explains.

SONY DSC

Symptoms like these are increasingly felt throughout urban areas in Western societies. Despite Tokyo, being one of the most affluent cities and Japan being low crime society, it has for a long time recorded extremely high suicide rates. The World Health Organisation posted results in a 2009 survey, 24.4 suicides per 100,000 people, ranking second among the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations after Russia’s 30.1. The high-stress working environment in Tokyo is widely known about, as is the lack of space in the city. These look like the kinds of causes of the symptoms spoken of by Bridget O’Connell.

“It’s such an awful feeling. I feel as if my existence is pointless, and like I must have become really unpopular and it makes me feel like I must be a horrible person. It’s caused me to become depressed and self critical, and to almost give up on life and shut down emotionally.” Experiences like Eleanor’s prove you don’t have to have retreated completely from society to feel like you don’t exist. There are fully functioning members of society who are cut off emotionally from the rest of us and no one bothers to repair this, its a damning indictment on the society we live in.

It’s a shame that 47 years after Eleanor Rigby spent four weeks at number 1 in the British charts, the British people are still letting their Eleanors down.

Mind’s website provides helpful tips and ideas for people struggling to bond with other people such as exercise classes or walking groups, social groups for lesbian, gay or bisexual people, art, music or poetry groups, dance classes, gardening groups and many more. It is a start in bridging the gap in peoples lives and improving their quality of life.

For support and information about loneliness or other mental health and wellbeing issues, visit http://www.mind.org.uk

P.L.M.R

All Photos © P.L.M.R 2013