Sad Music, Dark Literature and Positive Thoughts 2

The new blog hang out for Harry…the Man.

Category Archives: Social Justice

The Arms of Sorrow

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got – Henry Ford

I was amazed (probably, I shouldn’t have been) that on the Internet this quote is attributed to other people besides Henry Ford. One business website attributes the quote to Albert Einstein, for instance.

Anyway, I digress.

I think last year I mentioned that February and March is a sad time for me and I end up taking time off work with illness.  In February 2015 I was absent from work with sickness for four days and the same thing happened again in March last year.

March 2009 was when my father passed away, whilst I lost contact with someone special to me during March 2014.  February is connected to that same person for a special reason which I won’t go into right now.

In November last year, I planned ahead and booked some time off.  My leave started Thursday last week and I returned to work yesterday.  It meant that I would be home on my own to grasp time for myself to think about the two people I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I was pretty ineffectual as a human being last weekend.  Sunday saw me biting Gloria’s head off at the slightest thing.

During my week of leave from work, I had chance to sort a few things out around the house; those DIY (Do It Yourself) items that I have been putting off for a number of months.

One thing was to sort out a box of paperwork that I kept ignoring week after week for…I don’t know how many months.  Some of the post in the box was my late father’s which dated back as far as 1984.  That box is no longer making the place look untidy, so I scored a success there.

Seeing that post and realising how quick each task I completed was, I lamented how I have been putting things off.  If I keep on putting things off, I will never get to finish my studying for that IT exam, for example.

This week – and every week – I have a choice.  If I carry on as before, I know what will happen.  I will die without making an impression on the world.

For all of the anger in my heart at the evil out there, I will have helped to change nothing.  At present, my ideals are not resulting in enough action.

The realisation came to me of how scared I am to be bold.

I am sure that if I were to die today, there are people that will remember me as someone with a kind heart.  I’m not mocking that, that is fantastic.

However, I want to look down from heaven and be able to see at least one person living a better life because of something that I have done whilst still alive.  I want to admire myself.  I hope that expression isn’t too clumsy.

 

The Hardest Thing To Accept

The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Have you ever witnessed someone you love or care deeply about continually do something that even they acknowledge as stupid?  They continue no matter how much you try to reason with them.

reinhold_niebuhr

Reinhold Niebuhr

Most of you know what I’m talking about before I even spell it out, I reckon.

My twenty five year old daughter (no longer my stepdaughter – Yasmin calls me Dad, nowadays) has a professional occupation, her own car, rents her own place, is very attractive, has a good figure…well, she’d have no problem finding a new man if she wanted to.

So why is Yasmin still keeping with her boyfriend who even she describes as very immature.  None of her friends have good words to say about him but there he still is in her life.

I won’t tell her how to live her life.  I don’t believe that controlling another person’s life is an act of love.  I have gently advised her that she is possibly wasting a big chunk of her life as she would not be confident that he would have sufficient empathy to help one of their children suffering an emotional crisis at, say, thirteen years old.  I won’t tell her what to do but let her consider whether she is just wasting her time.

Yes, it is so hard to give others the latitude to live their own lives.  However, this is what decent human beings do for the ones that they love and care about.

I was thinking of The Serenity Prayer penned by Reinhold Niebuhr this week.

With Yasmin, I can sleep easy knowing that she isn’t the victim of domestic violence or some other barbaric practice, but is only putting herself through unnecessary mental pain.

But what of those who cannot help themselves?  What of those school aged girls who are first raped and then forced to marry their rapists under pressure from their families?  What of the child soldiers forced to shoot their own parents?  What of the innocent civilians maimed by previously unexploded cluster bombs?  What of those victims of the modern slave trade?

There are millions of girls, boys, women and men who are living through everyday hell with no means to save themselves.  This has always been true of this World.  However, I find it more the stuff of nightmares nowadays as we are living in the twenty first century.

All I can do is to change the things that I can change and accept that I cannot rescue the World.  If my actions can relieve the suffering of just one person, then my life will have been worth a great deal.

If half of the population of the United Kingdom joined me in this then the lives of 30 million people around the World will have been improved forever.  And what if half the inhabitants of each relatively rich and free western country improved the life of one other person?  How much better the world would be.

On my own I cannot change the world  A multitude of willing if meagre efforts from the millions also living in the same society as me can save the oppressed in this World.

On the plus side for Yasmin, her boyfriend did spoil her with several gifts for her birthday.  If he can be a bit more considerate of other people’s feelings then he too will be improving the world around him.

There is hope for this.  He isn’t a vindictive or bad person.  Hopefully, he’ll wake up one morning and just curse himself for acting before thinking of other people’s feelings.  I do actually think he is capable of that.

More good news about the Write For Rights campaign

Due to being ill, it took me a few days to notice an email that I received.

It was an update on another of the cases that I wrote about during the Amnesty Write For Rights campaign.  I am quite sure that I mentioned that this was the first case for which I wrote a couple of letters in December last year.

The email is an update of good progress but more still needs to be done.

I hope that this can give us all hope that we can all do just a little bit to contribute to making the World just a little better than before.

It’s also nice for me to find out what happens after I sent those letters.

Here is an excerpt from the email:

Dear Harry,

Maria* was 13 years old when her father forced her to marry a 70-year-old man, a common practice in Burkina Faso.

Her father threatened her saying, “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.”

Amnesty is working to end child marriage once and for all…With your help, we are making strides.

In response to pressure from letters and actions from activists around the world, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Civic Promotion in Burkina Faso has recently committed to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years and to ensure that forced marriage is clearly defined in Burkina Faso’s criminal code.

While these promises are a step in the right direction, we need your help to ensure these plans turn into real action.

Maria escaped after spending three days with her husband and his five other wives. She walked 105 miles over three days to get to a shelter.

When her father learned that she had fled, he threatened to attack the priest who helped her escape if she didn’t return home.

When she did return, she was beaten by her father and sent back to live with her husband. She again fled the house on foot and sought refuge at the nearest police station.

Amnesty is advocating for girls like Maria, who have suffered the injustice of early and forced marriage. We are telling their stories and we are holding governments accountable for their safety and well-being.

*Maria is not her real name

Thinking of Mothers’ Day…on #InternationalWomensDay

Hello all.  Later this week, I’ll address why I didn’t upload this post about Mothers’ Day at the weekend and instead waited until today.

Anyway, with it being International Women’s Day, it is probably right that this post is about the main women in my life.20160305_MothersDayMeal_195759

I was working at the weekend, and so I arranged a meal on Saturday evening as Sunday was a non-starter.  At the meal were my Mum, Yasmin and Yasmin’s Mum who is…er…Gloria!20160305_MothersDayMeal_195720

I arranged the times and booked the table earlier in the week as I wanted the evening to be as smooth as possible.  Thankfully, it proved that I can get this organisation thing right!

At three minutes past 6 in the evening, or 18:00 by the twenty four hour clock, I signed off from work and took Gloria to the car.  At 18:20, I picked up my Mum and gave her some flowers and a pot plant which she was overwhelmed by.  At 18:50, I collected Yasmin from her flat.  My Google Maps timeline shows that we arrived at the Harvester at 19:29.  We sat straight away as I had pre-booked the table.

As a thank you for booking the table online, I even got one drink free.  That made my large orange juice taste better!

Yasmin enjoyed her usual drink – Rose wine – while Gloria had a coffee and my mother a hot chocolate.  Yasmin was the only one to have more than one drink!  20160305_MothersDayMeal_220436

Yasmin had also been eating all day.  This might sound bad that she also wolfed down a starter and main meal but she has been off work with illness and had not been eating for several days.  Before the weekend, she had been living on a diet mainly of cups of tea and glasses of cordial.

We finished up by going back to Yasmin’s flat.  Gloria photo-bombed the photos that she took of Yasmin and I as she was reflected in the mirror above our heads.  I’ve cropped her out of the photo on this upload.20160305_MothersDayMeal_220413_cropped

Anyway, that was a great weekend which was rounded off with a couple of great women following me on Twitter.  You may know about Sarah Brown, the wife of the most recent socialist Prime Minister in the UK Gordon Brown.  I’ve highlighted Elena Hagopyan’s profile as you are possibly unfamiliar with her.Followers

Have a great #InternationalWomensDay everyone.

Remember, guys, even just changing the way that you and your friends speak about women behind their backs makes a great difference to equality.  Before you make a crude comment about a woman that you know, ask yourself if that’s how you would like people to speak about your mother/ neice/ daughter/ girlfriend/ wife.

So was the letter writing worth it?

You may remember that I took part in the Amnesty International Write For Rights campaign at the end of last year.  Well, do these letters ever help achieve anything you may well ask?

Previous Write for Rights campaigns have helped achieve freedoms in the past and it would appear that they still do even in 2016.

I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing an email that I received this week from Amnesty International.  This email is in regards to one of the ten cases that I wrote letters for.

In this particular instance, I wrote a handwritten letter to both the Attorney General of Louisiana and also to Albert Woodfox himself to give him courage as he sat in solitary confinement.

I want to add that none of this makes me proud of myself.  I was one of many, many people who done the same as me.  In fact, almost countless people done more than me.  All I did was wrote two letters.  Other people were daily standing outside of the prison or negotiating with the authorities.

But it was a humbling feeling to think that my letter was perhaps like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The sheer weight of international public feeling may have just tipped the balance and helped those fighting on Albert Woodfox’s behalf to successfully secure his release.

This letter writing was the least that I could do.  This man was imprisoned before I was even born.

Below is also a link to the BBC Website about it which was one of the top three read stories that day:

Dear Harry,

Today, Louisiana prisoner Albert Woodfox walked free, 44 years after he was first put into solitary confinement.

He was the United States’ longest serving prisoner held in isolation. Nearly every day for more than half of his life, Albert Woodfox woke up in a cell the size of a parking space, surrounded by concrete and steel.

Tomorrow morning, for the first time in more than four decades, he will be able to walk outside and look up into the sky.

Over the course of nearly five years working on Albert Woodfox’s case at Amnesty, I heard many times that the odds were insurmountable.

But I always knew that Albert Woodfox would go home.

I have seen the incredible power of our movement when we work together.

I have seen the courage humility, and determination of so many of you who have played big and small roles to help this historic human rights victory come to fruition.

I have seen the unbelievable strength of the Angola 3: Robert King, Herman Wallace, and Albert Woodfox himself—all three of whom endured nightmares but persevered with humor, dignity, and resolve to wage a relentless fight against the cruel, inhuman and degrading practice of prolonged solitary confinement in the United States.

With the knowledge of his release, Albert had this message for those who have helped him secure his freedom:

I want to thank my brother Michael for sticking with me all these years, and Robert King, who wrongly spent nearly 30 years in solitary. I could not have survived without their courageous support, along with the support of my dear friend Herman Wallace, who passed away in 2013. I also wish to thank the many members of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, Amnesty International, and the Roddick Foundation, all of whom supported me through this long struggle. Lastly, I thank William Sothern, Rob McDuff and my lawyers at Squire Patton Boggs and Sanford Heisler Kimpel for never giving up. Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case now and obtain my release with this no-contest plea to lesser charges. I hope the events of today will bring closure to many.

I’m carrying those words with me today as we celebrate this victory.

Today Albert Woodfox walks free—February 19, 2016, his 69th Birthday.

BBC link – Albert Woodfox freed after 43 years in US solitary prison

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