Saturday, 24 September 2005

So much for a short break.

I’ve been giving some thought to the situation in Iraq. The overall impression one gets is that things are going badly. I do not doubt that there are some projects in some areas that are working but these must be like a few green shoots above the mud and filth in New Orleans.
One of our – the coalition’s – problems is a lack of real insight as to how the Arab mind works. There is an inertia. Self-help is not very strong. The people look to the government to do (or fail to do) things. We were wrong right from the starting assumption that we would be garlanded with roses and seen as liberators with spontaneous uprisings ahead of our advance. The evil influence of Saddam Hussein was so widespread that it was like ivy on an old house. Even if pulled away, the root stayed in place. Those who may have felt glad we had invaded were too scared to do very much about it. The nights are very dark and life comes cheap.
Our foregoing reputation as members of an advanced civilisation meant that there were high expectations as to how fast we would improve the situation of everyday people. Whilst the way that they lived was pretty basic, it was a way known to the people. To get service, bribes were necessary. Who one knew was important. Corrupt – maybe, but it worked. Our arrival destroyed status quo and offered nothing in exchange. Our inability to stop the looting was a prime example. We destroyed the fabric of the country. No police. Water supply ruined. Food distribution disrupted. Medical services broken down. No indication as to when things would get better. It would be perfectly understandable for people to think that Saddam was not so bad after all. At least one had something even if it were minimal and dependent upon one keeping one’s head down and showing servility.
We seem to have concentrated on offering democracy rather than making it evident that living conditions would improve. Sure, Messrs. Halliburton are receiving large sums for work they are doing but some of it is sabotaged by insurgents and much of the rest is unknown to the man in the street. Telling me that Basra is doing well is not much comfort when I am sitting in the dark of my badly damaged house, thirsty and surrounded by sewage in Baghdad whilst wondering if my husband is working late or has been kidnapped or worse. Democracy’s definition is alien to a nation with a feudal base. Custom is that the sheikh makes the decision and the people live with it. The degree of influence from his advisers varies from not much to nil. The advisers are really little or minor sheikhs and have their own agenda anyway. I am reminded of the comment made by a white African on the subject of one man one vote. “What does the African know about a vote? He cannot eat it, sleep with it or sell it” Democracy has many drawbacks. It encourages those who make unlikely promises to an electorate that has little real understanding as to how politics works. I consider that much of the problem reference defining Iraqi democracy is based upon this lack of understanding. They promised much and now do not have any idea as to how they may honour those promises.
What is to be done? To get it right is, in my opinion, almost impossible. It is just as if we in the UK were suddenly committed to running the country from January 2006 as a Buddhist state. Too much of a change, too little explained, too soon. We have to come to some sort of fudge. Get the level of violence down. Find leaders who can – by hook or by crook – actually lead the people. If that be one of those we define as militia – so be it. Once things are quiet we should set a date by which we will be gone. Find a way to keep the now-recognised militia on side until that date. Once we have gone, internal forces will sort things out. Our task should be to work to keep the nascent country free from outside influence. The same assistance with infrastructure could continue. Our political machinations could well include some sort of favoured status for the coalition. Don’t tell me this is unprincipled or undemocratic. It worked on very similar lines in Northern Ireland didn’t it? Sinn Fein/IRA stopped the obvious attacks on security forces and got influence that they would never have enjoyed from an unattainable military victory.

Monday, 19 September 2005

When a sheepdog gets bored, it can easily adapt and find something to amuse itself.
Not so for me.
My own efforts at blogging led me to collect a large number of journals that I found interesting, challenging or educational. In that insidious way that side-bars have, most of these led me to yet more writing that I found attractive. I started to try to analyze the best of these and came up with a conclusion. The skill of writing has to be bolstered by interesting subjects. Yes - creative writing allows drafting dreams and journalistic compositions follow the old adage 'write about what you know'
Whilst compared to the youth of today, my 100 word essay is War & Peace re-done, I really just string a good vocabulary along a washing line of verbs. Recounting what I know leads me down the road of 'When I was a lad...'. That brings us back to boredom.
So - a pause for reflection. Can I regain that sense of being part of a big adventure; indeed, is it now an adventure at all? I see it as something akin to climbing Everest. Those first at the summit went through a heck of a lot of pain and suffering. Now, it is almost down to little old blue rinsed ladies in tennis shoes going up in groups of 20 or 30. I would not wish to get to the top in such unchallenging conditions that have evolved.
I think I'll get in touch with Kate Moss' agents and offer myself as a surrogate lover who would get her off the drugs and lesbian sex of which she stands accused. That way I can combine being creative and what I know.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Advances in bringing-up of children

Children should be seen and not heard
Do as I say not as I do
Don’t care was made to care
No pain no gain
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Speak when you are spoken to, not before
What you don’t eat now you will get as breakfast

These are just some of the admonishments I regularly heard when I was young. Most often, emphasised or reinforced by the laying on of hands. What this practice did for me I cannot be sure. I did discover that they were all very valid if I wished to avoid pain. I soon learnt the sort of conduct that would bring about their being voiced along with their associated sting. None of them made me feel like taking a (non-existent) automatic rifle into school or mess about with the brakes on the parental car. I suppose that I had no resentment about my treatment as it seemed all other children were treated much the same. One regularly saw children being smacked about the head or on the backs of their knees exposed below short trousers. Life was hard and brutish for youngsters.

Now, of course, all of the above are totally out of order. Anyone employing these methods of child training and discipline would rightly end up in court. In the main, children grow up in a world of kindness and forbearance of their juvenile conduct.

Wonder why it is that almost anything one looks at in respect of the youth of today, we find they have many problems and cause many problems? Isn’t there a neat little saying about throwing baby out with the bath water?