Monthly Archives: March 2011

An end to bullying

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Last week, I went to see the film “Inside Job”. Suffice it to say it is an excellently crafted documentary, hugely deserving of the accolades and praise heaped upon it. Being an avid news watcher, there wasn’t a huge amount in it that I hadn’t read about before, but there were certain scenes that shocked even a hardened sceptic like me. (*Spoiler alert now*) There is one scene in particular that hit home particularly hard. After the revelations that it was common practice among the traders that caused the crash to regularly use coke and prostitutes, to the extent that they had black cards for certain escort agencies, there was a scene showing certain traders being cross-examined at a congressional hearing. Though to see these men trying to avoid any culpability was infuriating, there was a question posed that for me really stood out. One of the Senators, who seemed bemused and exasperated at the utter lack of concern of the traders for anyone but themselves and their own lifestyles, asked one of the defendants in so many words about how he felt about how his recklessness had affected others. The look he received back was from a man whose soul was dead inside. It was a small moment, but distinctive because of the total lack of empathy the man had, apparent in his eyes. And it is one that shook me, and has remained with me all this week.

Here’s the thing: we, the public, are, whether we realize it or not, in the fight of our lives which will affect generations to come. And essentially, as in all fights, and all situations in life, it comes down to patterns that are learned very early on, normally in the school playground. It seems to me that in its most basic form what is being exhibited is a kind of bullying. We have the power, the corporates, banks, some media and governments are saying: we don’t want to lose our wealth, our riches, our lifestyle; so you, little people, are going to have to pay the price. You will pay the price in your social rights being eroded; you will pay the price in having to pay more taxes, and getting less for them; and we expect you, the unwashed masses, the gormless plebeians, to just lie back and be grateful that we allow you any rights at all. If this is not bullying on a national and international scale, then what is?

This is something I have been musing on recently. I guess as one gets older, there are more patterns that become apparent, and we can see how our little lives relate to the world at large. One of the episodes in my life that I would say has had a pretty fundamental effect was a two-year period where I was bullied at school. Prior to this, I was a very shy, introverted and insecure 13 year old. As I’ve written before, I had a very debilitating case of acne, which absolutely affected how I felt about myself.  My lack of confidence must have been palpable, because pretty much the second I landed in secondary school, the bullying started. It was mainly, and pretty much on a daily basis, by two older boys, who would follow me down the corridor at school, and when no one else was around they would hurl obscenities at me (but always sotto voce in case a teacher heard them): “You’re a f**king bitch, you’re a f**king cunt” (Now at that point, I had no idea what a cunt was, such was my innocence, but I knew by the tone of voice that it wasn’t a compliment). This went on for two years. I finally told my parents about it, and they agonized over what to do; in the end, I think they thought it best that I sort it out myself, but that I let them know if it was too much.

 

Although I loathed secondary school generally for a variety of reasons, these two years were horrendous – I do not recall one single day that I didn’t come home in floods of tears. I just didn’t know what to do. If I confronted these boys, what would they do to me? I had no idea. The randomness of how or why they had chosen me as their target indicated to me that they could be capable of anything – there didn’t seem any rhyme nor reason to this, other than perhaps I was different – unusually tall (5ft9” at 13), acne-ridden, with a slight American accent. The outcome might be far worse, so for a period of two years I put up and shut up.

 Everything in my life changed when my darling father, who was my shoulder to cry on, became fatally ill with the Hodgkin’s disease he had been battling for 7 years. I came home from a summer holiday in Italy to find him wasting away, and even though I didn’t realize fully what it would mean, I knew he didn’t have long to live. Though it sounds banal, I also had a tan, my skin looked somewhat better, and after two months of living in Sicily and being treated like an exotically beautiful girl by over-amorous Italian men, I had also gained in confidence. And funnily enough, for a few weeks I didn’t see my tormentors. When I finally did see them, I remember it was in the school library, in front of a crowd of people. One of them said something derogatory, and I can’t remember what he said or my reply, but I quickly shot him down with a sharp and pointed riposte. I was never bullied by those two again. And neither have I ever allowed myself to be cowed again. As I learned early on, the cost was too great, and the cure, though daunting, relatively simple.

What is very clear to me, and many others, is the unnecessary nature of any cuts whatsoever. For example, in the UK, on the day that the news media chose to report only on the “violent” nature of the student riots (and with very few exceptions, the only violence on display was with police employing the infamous kettling procedure, which they vowed they wouldn’t use after Ian Tomlinson was killed in the G20 riots – who gives the police their orders? Who pays their wages? Essentially, they would have had to follow orders by their employer, the government) Parliament passed through legislation which meant that the banks only have to pay .05% in levies. Keep in mind that it would only take the banks being levied at .75% to CLEAR the deficit, and one can detect the complete sham, the fraud that is at work here, the myth that we are “all in this together” (and since when has it become acceptable to make political slogans and soundbites from children’s TV? Oh that’s right, since 2008, with the equally nauseating line from Bob the Builder “Yes we can!” – I can’t decide whether High School Musical is a step up or back – but I digress).

We are most definitely not “all in this together”. Companies like Vodafone, Boots, the Arcadia Group, Topshop, BHS, Tesco, HSBC et al are avoiding paying billions of pounds in tax, while banks are bequeathing millions of pounds in bonuses to those traders and executives who, over-sexed, over-paid and over here squandered taxpayers’ money in what has been described by one of the interviewees on “Inside Job” as being equivalent to competing to see who could piss furthest, while back in 2008, in the words of the then Lib Dem Treasury Secretary Vince Cable, the New Labour government “aided and abetted the super-rich creating new loopholes for the super-rich to avoid paying tax. Even last week, by setting capital gains tax at 18 per cent when the top rate of income tax is 40 per cent, they’ve allowed potential for clever accountants to turn income into capital.” In the meantime, Cable, who wanted to bring reforms into the City, has been silenced by virtue of an incident involving the BSkyB takeover which was deemed by corporate media to be “embarrassing” because he was caught speaking his mind; and effectively one of the better minds in government has been muzzled to preserve a barely plausible illusion that everyone in the Coalition is singing from the same hymn sheet.

So who is benefiting from the cuts? Banks, who still aren’t regulated, who have been bailed out by the taxpayer, and know they have carte blanche to behave as they always have done. Corporations, who have seen corporation tax lowered in the Budget this week; but who also, in cases like Vodafone, have been excused paying billions of pounds in tax to the Exchequer (though interestingly, Vodafone are being pursued by the Indian government to pay tax they have avoided in that country – and we wonder why the Indian economy is set to be one of the future dominant economies? Granted, it is not dependent on tax alone – but surely in a country with a massive deficit, getting companies like this to pay the tax they owe to the Exchequer could only be helpful in reducing said deficit?). Governments: In the Obama administration, Tim Geithner and Rahm Emanuel were both involved in the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac debacle – and they are both heavily involved in “financial reform” – which serves no other purpose than to maintain the system as it is, despite even bankers telling the US government that they are simply not capable of self-regulation. In this country, Osborne, Cameron and the other members of the Oxbridge elite are so far removed from reality that Osborne stated recently about his school, St Paul’s (annual fees:£30,000) was so egalitarian that “It didn’t matter who your parents were. Your mother could be the head of a giant corporation – or a solicitor in Kew”. Although the statement itself can be at best be seen as naïve, at worst hugely ignorant and out of touch (as if a solicitor in Kew was at the lowest end financially of the social spectrum in the UK – if only), it does clearly exhibit one thing: Osborne and his ilk have no interest or empathy in the wider world outside their own tiny, privileged circle – and their main concern is to preserve the status quo at all costs, and again, the lack of regulation is against what the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has recently advised. But if life is made harder for the majority through cuts, “reforms”, changes in legislation across the board, indiscriminate cutting of funds for public services, then so be it – if the plebs are busy scrabbling about trying to make ends meet, perhaps they’ll let us get on with the slightly more important (and profitable) business of ruling, what? And finally, these cuts benefit the corporate media; because moguls like, for example, Rupert Murdoch, have a vested and again, very profitable interest in keeping us all ill-informed and afraid.

But afraid is the one thing we must not be. Our ancestors fought long and hard to earn us social rights: the right to fair wages, the right to vote, the right to be treated equally, the right to protest peacefully. We are being told by these bully boys (and sorry, gentlemen, but it is mainly Type A males that have wrought this latest havoc on the world) that it is their way or the highway, and that is simply not the case. There are countless groups now devoted to showing this is not the case; some of the better ones I have come across are the likes of OneGoodCut.org, ProsperityUk.com, the Robin Hood Tax website, UKUncut, 38Degrees.com, and for excellent reportage I cannot recommend enough the writings of Johann Hari and John Pilger. The battle that is ahead is akin to the battle for Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, in that we are now seeing the folly of allowing the industrialists free rein, and equally the nonsense that is free market capitalism, and how the misuse that is being made by corporations, banks and governments of the world’s resources has a human and planetary cost that is far too high. The time has come to stop believing, like little children, what we are told; and to realize that bullying, in its many guises, seeks only to dominate and control; and this is what corporations and the banks, who would flout the very essence of democracy, have as their endgame.

Over the last few months we have seen how the inhabitants of the Arab world long for democracy; and we, who have long had democracy, but for the longest time have not had to stir ourselves to really flex our democratic muscles, must do so now. It is not an overstatement to say that the future of the world depends on this; and if you, whoever you are out there, think that it is, again I urge you to go see “Inside Job” (and I am not on commission for the film, before anyone asks). Even if it is only for an hour tomorrow, make your presence felt. It won’t change things immediately, and in fact what I believe needs to happen is a movement whereby banks and corporations are hit where it really hurts – financially. But tomorrow sends a very important message, and it is important that it be made impossible to ignore. Although I quote him slightly ironically, given his opposition to the French Revolution, in the words of Edmund Burke “when bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Let us, the good, demonstrate that we will not be the sacrifice this time.

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My top five influential women

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Reading about International Women’s Day over the weekend got me thinking about all the amazing women, past and present, who have shaped my life. And I don’t mean public or historical figures, though there are plenty of those as well. No, what I am talking about are those women, that for one reason or another moulded my thoughts and behaviour, and made me into the woman I am today. So in this particular post, I’d like to share some of them with you.

One of the biggest influences on me, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was my Aunty Madge. She wasn’t my aunt, but my great-aunt on my mother’s side; and Aunty Madge, once you met her, was impossible to forget. She was this great ball of energy and fun, always up for a laugh, and still getting into mad escapades at the ripe auld age of 84. If anyone was Madge’s heroine, I would imagine it would be tough dames like Mae West or Barbara Stanwyck, the latter whom she physically resembled somewhat. Madge in my eyes was a bit of a legend: She left Tralee possibly in the 1930s, but definitely was involved in the war effort in London. She used to regale us with stories of working as a nurse during the Blitz, running across London with a mattress on her back to avoid being hit by bombs (though how a mattress would have protected one I’m still not quite sure to this day), and how much fun the whole war was. Whether it was or not, I’m not sure; but I have the sneaking suspicion that wherever she was, Madge’s natural inclination was to party on. My abiding memory of her was sitting in our back bedroom at home, in her bra and girdle, glass of whisky in one hand, fag in the other, holding court. Even into her eighties, she wasn’t short of male attention either; she was the very embodiment of how to grow old disgracefully. Madge never married, but one always had the feeling it was because she couldn’t be bothered with living conventionally, and even as a very shy and introverted child, I only realize what a great example of how to set your own rules in life Aunty Madge was. Her sister Joan was completely the opposite – cold, conventional, disapproving, giving the air of being disappointed in her lot; and even as a seven year old I knew which Aunty I wanted to emulate.

Though she wasn’t as gregarious as Madge, another great-aunt who fascinated me was my Aunt Celia. Celia had an amazing phrase that I still use jokingly with my friend Stephanie. My mum was talking to Celia one day about my father, and probably things weren’t going so well – certainly my mum was complaining about something he had done, or hadn’t done. Celia listened at length to what my mum was saying, and then gave her a hugely pithy piece of advice in her broad Queens’ accent: “Well, Mary, you gotta man, so you gotta PRAH-BLEM”. To this very day, that bit of advice cracks me up – it also says a multitude in a very short sentence. As much as personally women may love men, they are a completely different species in many ways, and therefore an endless source of bewilderment and sometimes frustration to us. This is not to belittle men either; I am sure the same applies the other way around. It also was my Aunt Celia’s very succinct way of telling my Mum to just get on with it. Again, Aunt Celia was a maiden aunt; she had an affair with an older man who bought her an apartment above my grandparents house in Flushing. It was the cutest, loveliest little girl-pad that one could imagine as well – very dainty and clean with lots of references to China. In fact, one of our favourite things to do as children was to run up to the landing between Cel’s apartment and my grandparents house and bang the gong on the landing for dinner. She wasn’t as funny or as harum-scarum as Madge; Celia was an elegant lady, with a perfect coiffure which she dyed jet-black to the day she died.

The other lady who influenced me hugely, but who is no longer as much a part of my life as she once was (due mainly to time passing quicker than I would like, and me being maybe not as careful about keeping in touch as I should be) is someone who I call my second mother, Marie. From the age of 7 to 17 I suffered from childhood, then adolescent acne. Not that I want to go into this in too much detail at the moment, but suffice it to say that acne made my life a complete misery. This wasn’t any old common gardener type of acne either – the top dermatologist in Cork told me at the tender age of 11 that this was the worst case of childhood acne he had every seen. My poor mum tried everything – any topical solution, any medication for acne that was available we tried, to no avail. Then, through a former student of hers, she found out about this woman who was treating people through holistic methods, and at the age of 16 I met Marie.

At this time, my confidence and sense of self-worth was at an all-time low. I had huge angry cysts all over my neck and back, blackheads on every part of my body. My dad had just died, and I had gone through two years of constant bullying at school. The main thing I remember from Marie at that initial meeting was just this aura of warmth and unconditional love. Her methods, though strange at the time (a mixture of overhauling my diet, laser, Rene Guinot skincare, and Turkish baths) actually started to work; but added to this was the encouragement I got from Marie as well. She is one of those amazing people that makes you feel as if you were the most important person in the world to her, and she had an incredible thirst to discover new ways of doing things. She had started working as a model in the 1960s; and I never tired of hearing her stories of learning about hair from Vidal Sassoon, or working with Rene Guinot, or the many exciting business projects she always had on the go. Though her marriage was not the happiest, she never seemed to let it get her down, or stop her moving forward. She was really my first big lesson in always to paddle one’s own canoe, and to always take responsibility for one’s own happiness. When I graduated from university, besides my family, she was the one person who I really wanted to see me receive my degree; and she did.

Another very early mentor was the woman who gave me my first acting job: Musetta Joyce. From the age of 7, maybe because of my skin problems, I would lock myself away in a world of make-believe – which sometimes felt more real and preferable to my life as it actually was. Funnily enough, the one area of my life that I felt in control of was my ability to perform, and I used to delight in putting on little shows for the neighbourhood: a “circus” one year, a variety show the next – I even directed a version of The Sound of Music (I played Maria of course) where all the nuns wore veils made out of bin liners and where we forgot what happened at the end of the movie, so Rolf ended up running away from the Nazis with the Von Trapps. Musetta is the mother of my oldest friend, Zelda; and it was through her that I found out, contrary to received wisdom at the time, that one could make a living out of this performing lark. She had been an actress for RTE radio, and at the Gate Theatre Dublin in the 1960s; but then abandoned it to go live in Sicily and pursue family life. However, around 10 years after I met Zelda and consequently Musetta, she started putting on shows in Cork, and gave me a part in “An Inspector Calls” (I played the small but very vital one-line role of Edna the maid). After that, she gave me bigger roles in subsequent productions, which, besides the obvious confidence this engendered, gave me a lot of practical experience as well. Not only that, her door has always been open to me in many other ways – advice about both my career and personal life – and again, from this remarkably optimistic and go-getting woman, I learnt those lessons that no amount of schooling can offer you.

So, I may have saved the best for last, because the final woman who has been an influence on me (perhaps the biggest) is my Mum. My Mum and myself have a relationship that has been forged over many years, many differences, and many similarities. Maybe every daughter feels like this, but it is similar to that line from “A Tale of Two Cities” – “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”. My Mum was the person who, when I expressed a real interest in learning the piano at age 6, fought tooth and nail to get me the best she could afford. This wasn’t easy; we had huge financial problems, and my dad was a house-husband at that time. But she made sure I got my piano, which is still in her house to this day, and lessons to boot. She played opera at home: the likes of Renata Tebaldi in Aida, Joan Sutherland in Lucia di Lammermoor. She brought me to the theatre at an early age, to any musical that was going on in Cork, and some straight plays; in fact the first Shakespeare I remember seeing was Macbeth in the Everyman Palace (a performance for students; and I do remember, as a 13 year old, wondering why all the students sniggered at the line about suckling a baby to the breast…). However after my dad died of cancer, all the differences between myself and my Mum seemed to be highlighted and grow bigger, and admittedly, and with the benefit of hindsight, I can see why. My father’s death was the final straw in a childhood and young adulthood that had included an overwhelming amount of abandonment in different forms, and with nowhere else to turn, my mother threw herself into her teaching work which she adored. In the meantime, I was out drinking and nightclubbing from the age of 16, living by day as a serious straight A student, and by night as a rebellious teenager. There were other factors in the interim, that lead me to accept that though I loved my Mum, I didn’t want to be like her; and then about two years ago, after she became seriously ill, the warring finally stopped. What has emerged since then has been the realization that subconsciously she has been the biggest contributor to my development as a human being, and by recognizing her frailties and foibles, I have also come to embrace and accept my own. She is an amazing woman in many ways: there are not many women from a staunchly Roman Catholic background that would consciously “live in sin” for the last 19 years (her boyfriend would like them to get married, but my Mum doesn’t set any store by marriage after trying it once), or be able to accept that one son is gay, the other Muslim; but she does, and despite some family feuding, seems to balance it admirably. Among her friends is an older transsexual, and again, despite some curiosity, she totally accepts her for who she is. She also is passionate about her vocation, teaching special needs teenagers; and though she officially “retired” 3 years ago, she has had more comebacks than Sinatra. She also has a latent interest in just causes; and though she won’t get involved in politics on a more active basis, she always votes, and for example flexes her democratic muscles in different ways: for example, like many other Irish people she boycotted South African goods in the 1980s, and now she boycotts Israeli goods as a matter of principle. In addition to this, she retains her individuality within her relationship by making sure she spends time by herself and looking after her own needs, and also has become more adventurous the older she has gotten (taking holidays abroad, learning Spanish and step-dancing). There is nothing that my Mum has set her mind on that she hasn’t achieved for herself, and that in itself is a magnificent role-model. She is my very own living, breathing Mother Courage in her own way.

The women I’ve talked about above aren’t record breakers. They will probably never be on any lists of the top 100 women. But they are women who by their example have shown me that we can all help each other, little by little, break through that glass ceiling to equality. The road may be long; it may be arduous, and frustrating, because whether it is acknowledged or not, sexism does still exist, and it may be centuries before it disappears altogether. We do what we can in this life; and hope that when we go, we may have been instrumental in passing the sisterhood baton on to other prospective women. If you do one thing on International Women’s Day, maybe remember one woman who has contributed positively to your life, and then thank them silently. I’m going to leave this post with a little saying that hangs on my Mum’s kitchen wall, and maybe is the way forward for feminism:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.

How to lose a dictator in 18 days

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And so, the seemingly impossible has happened in Egypt. After 30 years of ruling with an iron fist, Mubarak fell in only 18 days. The immoveable object met the irresistible force of people power and was crushed. The people spoke in loud voices and were listened to. But how did this happen?

As with all revolutions, there was a tipping point that coincided with a number of factors coming together. I have been reminded very much of a friend of mine over these last 3 weeks, a German girl called Claudia. Claudia was an exchange student from Leipzig, whose family had been very prominent during the Peaceful Revolution of 1989. Claudia talked very little about this till I visited her in Leipzig. One day, she insisted we visit the Stasi Museum. To be honest, I had not much of an idea who the Stasi were, or of former Iron Curtain politics, but I thought “Why not?”.

What I saw in the museum had a profound effect on me. The tiniest of interrogation rooms, stark and austere. The eerie feeling, indefinable but palpable, of the walls of the building claustrophobically caving in. Letters that were more like cobwebs because there was so much censored and cut out of them. Keep in mind that I had not seen one tortuous implement, not one waterboard; but the feeling on my chest as I walked through was of the quashing of any individuality, any hope, any liberty.

As we left the grimness of the museum and entered into the light, we walked alongside a public park. Visible above a hedgerow, with the top half of his body perfectly attired in businessman’s garb, was a man calmly masturbating in full public view. As my and Claudia’s jaws dropped simultaneously, Masturbating Man looked us dead in the eye, and then looked away, as if to say “This is my freedom, and as long as I don’t harm anyone, I can do what I bloody well please with it”.

Although I hasten to add that this attitude is not a necessary side effect of revolution (just in case any Egyptians read this and decide that military rule is preferable to random acts of public indecency), it has stayed with me. We in the West take our freedoms very much for granted; and in a way, why wouldn’t we? We are born to this privilege, and it is our expectation. It is not possible to hunger for what one already has in abundance. What the Egyptian revolution has done firstly is to make us appreciate this privilege, to appreciate our lot in life. Although the UK (like much of the world) is facing hard times, we are lucky enough to live in a society, where, although our civil liberties are slowly being eroded, they remain, for now, comparatively intact.

What for me was most heartening about the Egyptian revolution was the almost universal solidarity among the people in Tahrir Square. In the face of police brutality and torture by the army, they remained steadfast in their resolve to bring down an unfair system. They also remained for the most part conscious of each other’s humanity, and despite the naysayers in Western media and governments regarding the more “radical” elements (as if funding a killing machine to the tune of billions of dollars a year to suppress its people wasn’t radical enough) the protests were peaceful and united. One of the most moving images from the three weeks was Egyptian Christians symbolically creating a human shield around their Muslim countrymen at Friday prayers. There is no PR person alive that could have fabricated a more potent way of demonstrating the unity of purpose among Egyptians of all faiths, gender and classes as that one brave and bold statement.

There were several factors that led to this revolution being effective: the uprising in Tunisia, a highly educated yet underemployed and frustrated population, huge economic difficulties; but what made it a revolution like no other we have seen is the way the internet, and in particular Facebook was used.

This is the part that really interests me personally. I have long believed that the internet is a hugely democratizing tool, and a potential force for good – dependent as always, on how we employ it. It seems to me that I was not alone in this, as confirmed by Jim Glassman and Paul Wolfowitz on a recent episode of Newsnight. Apparently back in 2008, none other than George W.Bush sensed that another way for the States to control the ME was by funding political activists. I am hazarding an educated guess here, but I would imagine that Iran being the thorn in the side that it is in the eyes of the US, especially with regard to energy control in the region, has troubled several administrations, and so if they couldn’t do it by foul means (ie illegally invading Iraq, sending drones to kill civilians in Pakistan), maybe they would sweeten the bitter pill by using young political activists. It is a matter of record that members of the April 6 youth movement met with Condoleeza Rice in 2008, then with Hillary Clinton in 2009, and reportedly were supported by the group Movements.org to make the internet a potent tool of revolution (I will include a few links at the end of this blog that make for interesting reading about the USA’s funding of the Egyptian activists, the aforementioned Movements group, and Freedom House). The catalyst for reaching a wider demographic in Egypt was the killing of Khaled Said; and the page dedicated to him on Facebook has been described in many interviews given by civilians as such over the last month, in addition to the ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia.

No matter who funded it, what is in no doubt is the usefulness of social networks like Facebook and Twitter in organized protesting. Reading between the lines of many different articles on many different news sites, I don’t doubt that Washington has had a hand in some of the civil unrest. What is truly interesting however, is the turn that events took; and I believe that no one, particularly the Obama administration, could have predicted it.

Why I believe the internet to be one of the greatest democratizing tools ever invented is simply because of its universality. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world: London, Cairo, Tokyo, Timbuktu; one can log on to the world wide web and see, at the push of a button, how other people, in other lands, in other cultures, live. No matter what Fox News is telling you in the USA, one can, if one chooses, log on to, let’s say, the Guardian website and gain a totally different perspective on what is happening outside your little corner of the world. Yes, like any other tool, it can be abused; but essentially I believe that it is a force for good; because it shows us that essentially, we are all human beings, with the desire to be treated as such, and to live a fulfilled and happy life. So I think, in a very generalized sense, and from my own experience of visiting North Africa, that this is one of the keys that unlocked the padlock of oppressive dictatorship in Egypt. Also: information is power, and there is no dearth of information on the internet about any subject one chooses. But what the April 6 activists chose to do with their newly acquired knowledge is very interesting indeed, as it seems they learned it, and then very firmly, but in no uncertain terms told the US to bugger off.

Why do I think this? Well, several reasons, but the main one is the complete shambles diplomatically that the USA demonstrated over that period. The administration that had promised change but has delivered none in real terms seemed perplexed when faced with an honest revolution. Firstly, no one seemed to know whom to back – the US went from backing Mubarak, to not backing him but to warning against the “evils” of the Muslim Brotherhood (who stated openly that they were not interested in running for election), to cautiously supporting the protesters, to Frank Wisner saying that Mubarak had to say, in direct contravention to what Obama and Clinton were saying at the time, to openly supporting the demonstrators and calling for Mubarak to remove himself, to then openly supporting Suleiman, and then the army in the “interim” period. The sense I get (and again, this is conjecture from what I have read) is that they hoped after getting rid of Mubarak, the army and a suitable puppet figurehead could be counted on to restore stability and “democracy”. However, from what I can see, the protesters aren’t buying this particular line of propaganda.

What will happen remains to be seen; suffice it to say, I believe it to be a hugely exciting time in ME politics, with all sorts of possibilities. Despite any funding, interference or qualms on behalf of the US/Israeli administrations, and their allies, the Egyptians seem determined to chart their own fate, and neither threats, beatings, torture or hardship is going to stop them. In the aftermath of toppling the figurehead Mubarak, they have remained firm in their quest for a civilian democracy, and such has been their fortitude that they have inspired their Arab neighbours to seek the same. This is real change, change that we can all truly believe in me in; and what it shows to me, is no matter how hard the spin doctors try to tell us otherwise, there is no politician so strong or powerful that the people, unified in a common and noble cause, cannot overcome.

http://www.securityaffairs.org/issues/2009/17/graffy.php

http://www.movements.org

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=1

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22993

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/mohamed-elbaradei-the-man-who-would-be-president-2200155.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday_demonstrations_in_East_Germany