Archive for June, 2010

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Many believe, myself included, that the most powerful thing on Earth is the Human mind. As our society evolves it’s because of a collection of similarly minded people working together for the better of our people. You only have to look at medicine through time to see that.

Life expectancy would average around a low of thirty in the Middle ages compared to a figure pushing nearly seventy in modern-day Britain. This is an amazing achievement in itself, and this is only one aspect of our evolution. Take into consideration the amazing advancements since the times of ancient Greece in sewage works, water quality, heating systems, childbirth, freedom of knowledge, and education to name but a few.

As a collective power the Human mind has achieved some truly remarkable feats. The problem comes when the power is put into one.

For unfortunately, where there is a will, albeit an incredibly strong will, sometimes there is a way.

The wills of certain men can infect the wills of others. In certain instances to catastrophic effect.

Josef Stalin set his place firmly into History book for the repercussions of his famous iron will. Now to give a History lesson on Stalin would take a considerable amount of time so I’ll illustrate a brief overview.

From an early age, Stalin would be involved in many revolutionary acts, rising up through the ranks at a fast pace after joining Lenin’s Bolshevik movement in 1903. After playing a major role in the Revolution of 1917, and the Russian civil war 1917-1919 Stalin would be promoted. Firstly he was elected into the Bolshevik central committee. Before the civil war broke out he was appointed ‘People’s Commissar for Nationalities’ Affairs’ and further promoted into Lenin’s five member Politburo (Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). This committee was essentially responsible for the policy making of the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s reign of terror began in 1919. He ordered the burning of villages to intimidate the proletariat into submission, and executed many Former Tsarist officers of the Red Army and counter-revolutionaries. He also ordered the public execution of any deserters or renegades of the army.

Stalin assumed control in 1922. His reign was pock-marked with murder, repression and death. In the form of purges, the exile of ethnic minorities, famine due to repressive policies, and executions of anyone thought to assume any threat to his leadership as many as 60 million people died. To try to get your head around this number, due to one mans iron will, he wiped out the population equivalent to the whole of England.

Stalin’s arch-enemy during the second world war was of course one just as notorious as himself – Adolf Hitler.

Coupled, they are no doubt the most notorious two dictators the world has ever seen. Combined, they were responsible for the death of approximately 1/100 of the world’s population today to put it into context.

Nothing shows more ignorance (Nick Griffin) than these two words – What Holocaust?

I find it very hard to get my head around a person who can sanction the murders of over 6 million of the Jewish faith in some of the worst conditions possible.

Unfortunately the wills of such men are contagious. Today you will find many people brought up with hatred in their hearts often as a consequence of the actions of but a few. Take Ireland for instance. Beneath the surface, there is a bubbling hatred still present, as there is in Palestine. Children are brought up from a young age to view the Jewish as nothing more the pigs that should be slaughtered.

A massive problem is hatred seems to override peace and stability. 10,000 people spreading peace can be destroyed by 10 inciting hatred.

Mistakes like this must be prevented in the future. As Weapons become more powerful, and man as greedy for power as ever, the next episode of hatred in our race could end in nuclear disaster. The next iron will of our race could end the lives of 6 billion, not just 6 million.

Where there’s a will, there really is a way.

Unfortunately this could be our downfall.

 

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“I swear I can change!”

A phrase common to films, and no doubt in real life. Whether it be by your spouse, yourself or maybe even to a teacher or boss.

Does anyone trust the words? Often not, but isn’t everyone deserving of a second chance?

I view Humanity as an incredibly versatile race. Opinions can be changed, situations can be rectified and hate can turn to love, even in times of war. Take the Italians: all change there.

So by whose judgement is someone beyond change?

During the middle-ages in Britain, tolerance was always very low. Even for first time offenders, the range of punishment to crime was very severe. For stealing as little as a shilling, or goods over that amount, the culprit might well suffer punishment of death. For the lesser crime of stealing under the amount of a shilling, the culprit may merely be bereft of their ears or hands. And this is just for theft.

Vagrancy was another crime: anyone found to be homeless, poor, or unemployed was considered lazy, and a criminal. From the 16th century, vagabonds were whipped and facially mutilated with a ‘V’ branded on their face. Repeat offences would result in death.

Capital punishment was issued for a number of crimes, including highway robbery, theft, murder, arson and forgery. Uncommon to modern-day British courts, prosecution was always favoured during the middle-ages. The likelihood of false conviction was fairly high in some instances. The injustice of an incorrect life-ending conviction is a horrible thought but, even today, in America it happens and in the Eastern world it is commonplace, especially for women.

Muslim woman stoned to death.

The job of a torturer was an intricate art in those days. For those who were unfortunate enough to suffer the penalty of death, the torturer’s job would be to prolong life for as long as possible whilst employing agonising pain to the victim. There were many methods which they used, each as gruesome as the last.

To name but a few, firstly I’ll illustrate stoning (as seen above). The victim would have their hands tied behind their back, be wrapped in a blanket and buried up to their shoulders if male, and slightly below as a female. The executioners would draw a circle around the victim and proceed to throw medium-sized stones at them until either death or the victim’s impossible escape past the line drawn. Importantly, the stone couldn’t be large enough to kill the victim outright or so small as not to inflict pain, ensuring the victim suffered excruciating agony in the closing moments of their life. This ancient penalty is still practiced today in many eastern countries, often as a result of false convictions against raped women charged with adultery.

Next would be beheading: a practice very common in the execution of nobleman, Kings, and women. Unfortunately for the victims, it never usually worked out in the way of films and cartoons. Often a blunt blade would take several swings to part head from its body. The rich often paid for their own executioner to avoid this, and employed them to use a sharpened sword. Again, this practice is still used in horrific circumstances in the modern-day world. Splashed across the newspapers in recent times, we’ve seen to our dismay the use of beheading as a political tool. Innocent men such as Eugene Armstrong, beheaded in an attempt to destabilise the British and American occupancy of Iraq, to name but one of many, many instances.

Perhaps the most gruesome death of them all has to be the punishment for high treason. That is, to be drawn and quartered. A victim would initially be hung until close to death. This was to be followed by the victim being stretched. Then if the victim is particularly lucky, they would be beheaded. If not, they were cut open alive, and suffered the unimaginable pain of having their entrails burnt in front of them before the beheading. After death, the body would be quartered and displayed around the city or, in extreme cases, around the country as a deterrent to others.

This was common in the middle-ages. After death, bodies were usually left to rot and decay in the street to deter others.

Now the common theme with all these deterrents is that none of them worked. Crime did not lessen, even with the barbaric nature of the punishments. And make no mistake, execution in any form is barbaric.

To think of all the improvements in society since the 14th century, why has it taken so long to realise execution is not the answer. In Britain, a shocking fact to me, the last execution by hanging was as recently as 46 years ago in 1964. I’m surprised it took so long for Health and Safety to catch up.

If it took so long for us, how long will it take the Eastern world to realise the same thing and to stop setting laws based on age-old religious texts and the will of bigoted village elders. Examples should be set from the West of successful modern-day society.

And surely a big question we all have to ask ourselves is how long will it take America to join the civilized? Publicly passing electricity through a person, and drowning a person inside their own body, mix that with the torture of spending years on death row. It’s simply shocking that a Western country still lives in the dark-ages. A country that should be setting an example to the world, as frontrunners in the evolution of the human race.

No matter the nature of the crime, killing someone as a punishment is never the answer. Violence breeds violence, and no single judge or jury should have the right to kill.

“I swear I can change!”

Well maybe we can’t, but we all deserve the chance to.

Onward Christian soldier…

Like most my age, I was brought up to believe that, approximately 2000 years ago, the ‘messiah‘ was born. As a child, I never imagined this to actually be true, just another fanciful tale told by my elders to instil discipline and structure to my life, much like any frightening tale such as the bogeyman.

How wrong was I? A total of around one billion people would put me in my place claiming Jesus was truly the son of God, and that to not believe in this would condemn me to an eternity in hell. Which is nice.

Thankfully for these one billion, the days of Jesus’ life were recorded by men, and even tops the bestsellers list. Albeit, as records show, quite some years after he died. And, well, I say his life, they did miss the first 30 years out. But never mind, he was probably still the pure human being everyone portrayed him as, I guess.

It doesn’t take too much reading of the Bible to find the common link with many other religions. The pages are strewn with violence and murder, all sanctioned and justified by one greater than us all. Or perhaps it isn’t murder. After all, the Ten Commandments tells us what not to do. Perhaps it’s the modern-day equivalent of self-defence, as religion surely couldn’t contradict itself on the most important of all rules. Could it?

The one thing any religion does insinuate is that essentially man are a flawed race; corrupted by greed, power, personal desires and money (well politics really). Yet we are asked to put blind faith into age-old scriptures written by men. In a time where politics reigned!

Being brought up in a Christian country, from a young age, this is what we are brought up to believe. Yet if fortunes had placed us 6500 miles to the east, we may well have been Muslim.

The Muslim faith has found itself upon hard times in recent years due to the teachings of Islam. The atrocities of 9/11 and the London and Madrid bombings, highlighted the extremist nature of a select few. Yet is this their fault? If, from a child, they’re brought up with no contradiction to the belief that the killing of others brings eternal glory, how are they to know better? Most days you read of crimes for money, as petty as a few pounds. When the reward is far greater, eternal life (with a few untouched ladies thrown in), to them I’m sure it would be crazy not to.

But it’s not just Muslims. You only had to look at the news last week to see a ‘Christian’ oneman mission in Iraq. Armed with a gun, a Samurai sword and scripture, Gary Brooks Faulkner set out to kill Osama Bin Laden. Who could condemn him? Seeking justice for the murder of thousands of innocent Americans. Well God, apparently.

Still, he isn’t the first and he won’t be the last to use a name to cover up crimes. The same way that execution shouldn’t be covered by the veil of ‘law’.

So what is the real evil here? Is it man? Is it simply extremists?

Or maybe it’s religion itself.

Heroes?

Scattered across the pages of our History, all through time heroes have been made. The word hero itself originates from the Greek ‘Heros’ meaning ‘warrior’ and ‘protector’.

Greek mythology is a good place to start.  Take Achilles, as famous a hero as any other. Even to date, he’s known as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters the world has ever known, even with a dodgy heel.

The French haven’t always run, they have their patron saint in Joan of Arc. A Christian teenage girl who impossibly united a nation against the tyrannical English, impassioned by the visions she dreamt narrated by her God. And, understandably, she was mercifully led to end her life by being burned alive at only nineteen.

The Scottish hold reverence to the great William Wallace. Leader of the uprising against the notorious Edward ‘Longshanks’ – King of England in the latter part of the 13th century to the beginnings of the 14th – uniting his kinsman into battle against impossible odds, and coming out victorious. Until the inevitable ending, of Wallace etching his place into the book of time by being captured and publicly executed in a truly horrific manner.

How about the English themselves? Who better than Sir Francis Drake – a true English hero. Among his accomplishments, he became the first to circumnavigate the globe and delighted Queen Elizabeth in the return of exotic items and spices not seen before, as well as gold plundered from the Spanish. Of course, that’s where his fame derives from. To the Spanish he was known as El Draque, ‘Francis the Dragon’. After provoking the Spanish into war, he then famously defended our shores from the great Spanish Armada. With a little help from our always unforgiving English weather.

This is just to touch the sides. There are countless ‘heroes’ from many nations across the world.

But just think: what is it that makes these people heroes? Sure, they make a great bedtime story to put the kids to sleep and make for a fascinating History lesson, but has society really evolved if it is glorifying a person based on personal success at warcraft, killing and murder? You only have to take a look at the daily news sheets to find a new hero every week from Afghanistan and Iraq. But are they really heroes?

Where’s the justification in glorifying someone for snuffing out the existence of another. People are very quick to judge the plight of suicide bombers, as they themselves are praised by their brethren for achieving the highest honour in the eradication of infidels and non-believers, but in essence,  isn’t the British media essentially doing the same thing? Politics in the guise of Patriotism. Scores of teenagers are leaving school, brainwashed into believing that it’s their duty to kill in order to be praised. I don’t know what’s worse: ‘achieving’ a medal for war exploits, or becoming a true national hero praised by the national media, shrouded in the British flag. Sadly, over a coffin.

I for one, do not want to stand up and be counted.