Globalverantwortung und Klimaschutz als Gegenpol zu Wirtschaftsblöcken und Segregationspolitik.

Ich habe lange von der Seite zugeschaut. Am Anfang erschien es so, als ob ich als Deutscher in London selbstverständlich zur Remain Seite gravieren sollte.

Doch das wäre nicht dem wahrhaft gewesen, was ich von Seiten der EU und seinen Mitgliedsstaaten seit Jahren beobachtet hatte: Die Politik, die manche als „Fortress Europe“ Europafestung, beschrieben hatten.

Auch wenn die Bundesrepublik viele Flüchtlinge bei sich aufgenommen hat, andere EU Staaten taten es nicht, oder sie tolerierten diese Menschen, ohne ihnen menschenwürdige Zukunftschancen zu geben. Zehntausende liegen auf dem Boden des Mittelmeers, dafür, dass Flugzeuglinien, die in EU-Länder fliegen, dazu verordnet sind, unter Drohung hoher Bußgelder, keine illegalen Migranten mitzunehmen. Stattdessen wurde so von der EU indirekt der illegale Menschenhandel angetrieben.

Dass es Flüchtlinge in den Ausmaßen gibt, wie wir es miterleben, hat viel mit wirtschaftlicher Blockpolitik zu tun und der Art und Weise, wie Kriege in den letzten 20 Jahren gekämpft oder nicht gekämpft wurden.

Der Norden, dies ist schon ein uraltes Argument, stütz sich gerne auf den Süden, den dieser weiterhin wirtschaftlich unterdrückt und ausbeutet. Die westliche Moderne begann mit der Zerstörung von Zivilisationen in Amerika, Afrika und Asien. Zuerst vor allen durch Europa und später die Vereinigten Staaten mitbetrieben, gesellen sich zum Norden heute auch China, Indien und einige kleinere Länder hinzu, die wiederum die Ressourcen und Energien anderer ausbeuten. Die marktwirtschaftliche Kurbel dreht sich weite. Jene die davon profitieren stehen größtenteils auf der einen Seite, die anderen im Süden, mit der Ausnahme von örtlichen Handlanger*Innen, die als Agenten des Nordens operieren, teilweise Mitglieder korrupter Regierungen, die mit dem Norden eine Sache machen, zum Nachteil der eigenen Bevölkerung. Indirect Rule, nannten die Briten im imperialen kolonialen Zeitalter das.  Die Mehrheit der Weltbevölkerung bleibt mit diesem System in tiefer Armut, ein schandhafter Befund für die Gegenwart.

In Großbritannien wollten manche das Diktat aus Brüssel nicht mehr hinnehmen, und als eigenes Land mit der Welt agieren können, ohne Umweg über die EU, so der Wortlaut. Es ging um Souveränität und ein limitiertes Geschichtsverständnis, welches immer wieder von Großbritannien als große weltorientierte Handelsnation sprach und das Blutvergießen und die Ausbeutung des eigenen Imperialismus und Kolonialismus, einer der brutalsten in der Menschengeschichte, einfach mal so zur Seite schob. Dieses absichtliche Ignorieren hatte große Potenz, so wie jeder Nationalismus, der sich auf die Vereinfachungen viel komplexerer Gegebenheiten stellt. So wie die Idee des Europas, das größtenteils bis heute glaubt, dass der Islam und der afrikanische Kontinent nicht gravierend zu seiner eigenen Entwicklung beigetragen hätte. Dabei gibt es kaum eine Architektur, die nicht indirekt auch auf die arabische Dominanz des frühen Mittelalters zurückgeht, und weder Holland, Portugal, Belgien, Deutschland, noch Italien oder Dänemark sind neben Großbritannien ohne ehemals koloniale Ausbeutung zu verstehen – im Fall Italiens, lässt sich das noch weiter in die millenare geschichtliche Vergangenheit dehnen.  Auch kein anderes Land ist einfach nur so groß oder wunderbar, der Erfolg Chinas beispielsweise ruht genauso auf der Ausbeutung anderer zum eigenen Profit, wie der der Vereinigten Staaten.

Und dann gibt es die Realität der Gegenwart und Zukunft. Globale Herausforderungen wie Umweltverseuchung, Artenschutz, die Erwärmung der Welt, Plastik in den Meeren, Trinkwasserverseuchung, Epidemien, Naturkatastrophen, Hunger, Waffen der Massenvernichtung, und Waffen allgemein, oft genug in den Händen menschenverachtender Gruppen, nukleare Gefahren, Abholzung und Luftverschmutzung.

Die Politik, die uns derzeit formt, ist deshalb als  reaktionäre Politik der Alten Welt zu verstehen. Sie will, so lange es eben geht, noch ein bisschen länger um sich werfen, noch ein bisschen länger so tun als gäbe es die neue Realität nicht, so wie die Autoindustrie, die noch ein bisschenlänger die dreckigen Modelle von Gestern verkaufen möchte, und Politiker die um der Industrie nicht zu schaden keine schnellen Veränderungen fordern. Noch ein bisschen länger Profit aus der alten Weltordnung machen können, den Klimawandel und anderes deshalb ignorieren, das ist es, doch was Menschen wie Trump in einem Satz zusammenfasst. Noch ein bisschen länger blind verschwenden und zerstören können solange der Rubel, Peso, Dollar, Euro oder Pfund eben noch rollt.

Was bei alle dem, dem Brexit, oder keinem Brexit, AfD oder America oder China First, dem Ruhm der EU fehlt, ist Globalverantwortung. Einfach gesagt, die Verantwortung für die Welt und Menschheit als Ganzes. Wem jedoch das Lokale, Örtliche  teuer ist – und dafür gibt es viele derzeit, nicht nur in Großbritannien wo Theresa May behauptete,  dass Weltbürger Bürger von Niergendwo sind – sollte lernen und bereit sein global besser umzuverteilen. Menschen, die Zugang zu Grundbedürfnissen haben, von Arbeit, Erziehung, gesicherter Wohnung, zu medizinischer Versorgung, sind weniger im Bedürfnis zu migrieren, ich spreche von den sogenannten Wirtschaftsmigranten genauso, wie den echten Flüchtlingen.

EU allein, Großbritannien allein, Russland allein, Amerika allein, China oder Indien allein, Brasilien gegen alle, all das löst keine der zukünftigen Herausforderungen in einer immer enger zusammengewachsenen Welt. Statt über die Geschichte der Menschheit zu sprechen, wird in den meisten Schulen der Welt trotzdem noch immer Nationalismus gepredigt, der die eigene Existenz und das eigene Wohl, den Wert der eigenen Geschichte, über die aller anderen schiebt. Wir kennen das in Deutschland, hatten es probiert.  America First übersetzt sich passend mit der Floskel Deutschland über alles. Es führte zu einer Katastrophe, die das Deutschland dieser Zeit zerstörte. Doch das Wasser steigt nicht, und die Wüste vertrocknet nicht, die Eisberge versinken nicht, noch schmelzen die Gletscher oder hungern die Menschen in einem bestimmten Land nur aufgrund eines Landes, sondern weil wir als Menschen keine gemeinsame globale Verantwortung nehmen wollen und weiterhin nur mit Konzepten der Abgrenzung und des Eigenvorteils denken,

Diese Art des Denkens ist somit die größte Herausforderung der nächsten Generation. Es geht weder um Brexit, noch um eine Armee für Europa, oder scharfe Worte gegen alles Neue in Brasilien, sondern der Armee der Menschheit, welche sich diesen globalen Herausforderungen stellt, in dem sie die Welt überall, und alles, was darauf ist,  besser schützt, und gerechter macht.

Unterschiede und Diversität machen das Leben interessanter, bringen neue Ideen auf, sie dürfen aber keine Berechtigung der Ausgrenzung, Ungleichheit oder Ignoranz sein. Die alte Art des ausgrenzenden eigenbezogenen nationalistischen Denkens ist nicht mehr akzeptierbar. Wenn aus einer Fabrik in einem verborgenen Teil der Welt Dreck ins Meer fliest, beispielsweise nuklearer Abfall, dann ist das ein Problem für alle, und Mensch und Tier.  Wenn in einem Land Menschen leben, die Millionen auf ihren Konten haben, und in einem anderen Land oder bloß in einer Unterergion Menschen, die von ein paar Cents pro Tag überleben müssen, ist das ebenfalls ein Problem für alle. Wenn ein paar Länder die Meere überfischen, und weiter Regenwälder abholzen und Plastik unsere Meere kaputt macht, ist das genauso ein Problem, der Ausbruch einer Epidemie in einem Teil der Welt, einen Teil den manche Menschen nicht mal kennen mögen ebenfalls.

Brexit Befürworter argumentierten, dass sie sich der Welt und nicht nur Europa stellen wollten, doch sie die meisten wollen es nur aus der Sicht des eigenen nur britischen Profits. Der gravierende Fehler sowohl der EU, als auch Großbritanniens, ist das Fehlen der Einsicht dass in der Welt von Morgen es nur den Profit der einen Menschheit oder den Verfall aller gibt. Doch momentan geht es eben gerade noch, noch ein bisschen weiter Alte Welt, ja teilweise ihre Re-etablierung, trotz aller bekannter Risikos und Warnungen. Das ist im Grunde auch menschlich und doch der weitere Abstieg in eine globale Katastrophe. Junge Menschen, die sogenannten Millenials verstehen das zunehmend. In Großbritannien finden Umweltschutz Aktivismus Gruppen wie Exctintion Rebellion immer mehr Anhänger*Innen. Sie sind der Gegenpol zu Alledem, sehen eine kollektive Verantwortung als Fundament, anders als die meisten heutigen Politiker.

Es ist also weder Remain, noch Brexit, weder die EU, noch America First, oder das große Russland, noch irgendein anderer Block, um den es wirklich geht. Angesteuert werden muss eine globale und gemeinsame Verantwortung der einen Welt, des einen Planeten Erde.

 

Extra Infos Hinkley – Cardiff

Ein paar Extra Infos zu meinem text

https://taz.de/Entsorgung-von-strahlendem-Schlamm/!5538493/

Wegen der Längenangaben mussten ein paar Teile gestrichen werden, die eigentlich in den text gehörten:   Sie sind hier aufgelistet!

EDF Statement

EDFs entgegen der taz. „Der Schlamm ist nicht anders als irgendein anderer Schlamm an der Küste und wurde gründlich von einer britischen Regierungsbehörde getestet und Experten bestätigten, dass es keine Gefahr for die menschliche Gesundheit, noch für die Umwelt mit sich bringen.  

 

Schiffklappe Klemmt

Der Schlamm auf dem Boot verschwindet aus der Mitte des Schiffs. Plötzlich ist eine Stimme über dem Funkgerät wieder hörbar, der Schiffskapitän des Frachtschiffs berichtet mit flämischen Akzent, dass er den Kiel nicht mehr zumachen kann, weil irgendwas da fest sitz. „Beweis, dass die den Schlamm nicht aussortiert haben, glauben Ciaran und McEvoy, denn vorgeschrieben sei, dass der Lehm vom dem Kies an Land getrennt werde. „Die Versenkung ist somit illegal!“, sagen sie.“

 

BBC hat nicht immer darüber berichtet

Am Ende des frühmorgendlichen Bootexkurses wartet BBC Wales mit TV-Kamera. „Die BBC hat unsere durch Crowdfunding bezahlten Aktionen lange ignoriert“, kommentiert Ciaran.

 

Verstrahlte Umwelt

Deere-Jones: Auch fand man nach einer Überflutung 1990 in Towyn in Nordwales im Schlamm radioaktive Partikel.

Alpha und Gamma  und Sellafield (lange Version)

Einer der Hauptargumente von EDF und anderen mit Bezug zu Hinkley, aber auch in Fragen potentiell verstrahlten Sandes in der Nähe von Sellafield, ist die Legalität der  vorgefundenen Verschmutzung. Im Bericht des staatlichen Prüfungslabors Cefas zum Schlamm Hinkleys steht, dass die im Schlamm vorgefundenen Werte unter den Grenzwerten stünden, und eine spezifischere Untersuchung deshalb nicht notwendig sei. Deere-Jones erwidert, dass es konkret bedeutet, dass sie gar nicht nach mehr radioaktiven Teilen des α-Spektrums, sondern nur nach γ-Strahlung suchten, was viel weniger Aufwand sei.  ….    So wird, was unter die Grenzwerte fällt, als niedriges Risiko eingestuft. An den Stränden Kumbriens dürfen als Folge dessen Kinder mit Segen der Aufsichtsbehörden bedenkenlos am Strand spielen. Antinukleare Aktivisten der Gruppe Radiation Free Lakeland zeigten in eigenen Untersuchungen, dass Drittel des Sandes erhöhte Strahlungswerte hat. Sellafields und die staatliche Umweltbehörde bestreiten die Tests nicht einmal. Alles liege „innerhalb der erwarteten Grenzwerte“ schrieben sie der taz.

 

Kikk

Dorf  nennt die deutsche Kikk Studie über die radioaktiven Auswirkungen auf Kinder im AKW Umfeld, welche von Großbritannien einfach zur Seite geschoben wurde, obwohl „weltweit akzeptiert ist, dass es keine sichere Dosierung der Radioaktivität gibt.“

Comments Off on Extra Infos Hinkley – Cardiff Posted in Uncategorized

A Better Song For Peace

Why the popular Israeli peace song Salaam was never good enough, and a simple step to make it better!

by Daniel Zylbersztajn

A Jewish synagogue congregation in North London is sitting together in the late afternoon on Yom Kippur, the highest and holiest holiday in the annual Jewish calendar, and after a themed afternoon discussion on old, and new forms of music, the likes of Avinu Malkeinu, Kol Nidre, Sim Shalom is preparing itself for a new version of a quite familiar Israeli tune.

This song is one of the more modern standards, not essentially only sung at Yom Kippur, and also not part of a religious liturgy. Nevertheless, it is found in many services and Jewish youth meetings throughout the world. The last time that song was played publicly to a UK crowd happened to be at the large Manchester Jewish protests against anti-semitism. No, it is not Leonards Cohen’s Hallelujah, sampled to old verses, but another song.

After an introductory explanation, the congregation starts to sing the familiar words and melody. But then there is a sudden change, that is the bit that is new. Was this really a Jewish Hebrew speaking congregation uttering these words? Something with that Hebrew they just sang sounded different. Surely they had a go at an older Aramaic version or something of the kind?

“Salaam” you could hear about 30 voices from the inside.  No, there could be no doubt, it was definitely not Aramaic but Arabic. Whoever listened carefully and attentively from the outside, would have thought that the old building they were passing, hosts an afternoon for Syrian or Iraqi refugees, maybe a Palestinian cultural group, perhaps?“

The Hebrew song Salaam by the Group Sheva and their now independent since time memorial dread-locked Israeli songwriter Moshe Ben Ari has become one of the most popular peace songs in Jewish circles, the Maccabeats a famous Jewish acapella group did a version amongst others.

The song expresses the hope for and self-assuring certainty of a future of peace and presumably is to be understood as a symbol of outreach. It calls not just for peace as “Shalom” in Hebrew, but for “Salaam” in Arabic. Many think of it as a modern song, that is quite progressive. After all, it is unusual to sing a Jewish song with elements of Arabic?   Explain that to the many Jewish communities who used to live for millennia in Arabic speaking areas.

The song reaches out indeed to non-Jewish and Arabic speakers, most likely imagined to be Palestinians. But in spite of its reach and acceptance, the song is missing something that it actually pretends to have, but has not. Yes, in spite of its Arabic, the song does not quite work as a peace song. If you are one of the happy go fans of the tune, read on.

Until 2010 I worked for a stretch of a total of five years as the UK press and education officer for Oasis of Peace UK, the British arm of the peace village Wahat-al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom, where Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims with Israeli citizenship have lived together since the 1970s. The village is based in the former no-man’s – no wo*-man’s land, that once was the border between Jordan and Israel up until 1967. It is owned and leased, literally free of charge, to the community by the Latrun Monastery. If you believe in symbolism, consider that at the foot of the monastery the State of Israel harbours its national tank museum inside the former British fortified station, which after 1949 became inhabited by Jordanians and a trouble spot, until Israel over-run the territory in the 1967-War.

Language is an important aspect to the residents of the peace village. The village, its school and other institutions are all bilingual and binational, serving the local three main faiths, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The conflict transformation centre in Wahat al-Salam – Neve Shalom, it is called School for Peace, is visited by people from across the region who engage there in mutual in-depth encounters with the other, sometimes for the very first time.  It operates in Hebrew and Arabic on equal terms.

In this mutual village of Jews and Arabs a  lot of thinking has been spent there on the power of language, and so it is no mistake that the original name Neve Shalom, which means Oasis of Peace,  eventually became Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, and then the other way around Wahat al-Salaam ~ Neve Shalom, significantly the Arabic first, before the Hebrew after lots of debates.

In Israel at least, Hebrew is now the only official language, a recent change by the Netanyahu-led coalition. Before that, Arabic and Hebrew had, legally speaking, but not in practice, a more equal status.

Most Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and many in the West Bank and Gaza speak Hebrew. This is because it is not only important to get about in Israel,  it can avoid being misunderstood and get into trouble.

In the School for Peace, conflict transformation workers operate in Arabic and Hebrew on equal terms. Arabic amongst Jewish Israelis is less far-spread, although some speak Arabic due to their backgrounds. There are still many people about, who were born in Iraq, Libya or Egypt for example.  Others acquired Arabic as a foreign language, after all, it is the lingua franca in the Middle East. But many do not speak Arabic at all.

Without going further into this, It is clear that speaking each other’s language, in an area rive with conflict, being able to communicate on equal terms is the fundamental basis for any meaningful exchange to take place. In order to live or work in Wahat al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom, one must be able to speak both languages, primary children there learn both languages.

When I heard Salaam for the first time, given my years of working for the peace-village, after actually liking it, because of its aspirational wish, I actually felt it was in fact too one-sided, in spite of its reach. There is but one word in Arabic in the song, Salaam. Hence the song remains clearly a Jewish Israeli song. You would not have an Arabic speaker sing it as their own, because most of it is in Hebrew.  As said, there are all sorts of versions of the song circulating, Yonah Urfali a Jewish religious singer claims the song for a more Jewish internal purpose (see here) that appears to have less to do with seeking outreach with Palestinians, it seems. Still, it has been used in Mexico at an initiative in 2014 as a peace song for all, as it was sung in Australia at the Woodford Festival, and in Ohio during an international peace summit alongside an English translation.  There are many other versions on youtube if you care to look.

However, the question I asked my self, was, that if it was meant to be a peace song that reaches out, Jewish Israelis, Jews, in general, reaching out to Arabic speakers,  how does one allow Arabic-speakers to also take ownership of the song, and to reach out to Hebrew speakers and Jews? How does it become a regional peace song for all on both sides, and not just a song of the ambition of Jewish people and Israelis who sing it, but a song of a shared common future in peace?

Some ten years ago the Israeli singer and musical performer Shlomo Gronich released Havenu Shalom Aleinu – Ma Ana Ajmal Min Salam, an initiative in which Jewish Israelis and Palestinians performed the named peace song together in Hebrew and Arabic.  In February 2018, Jews and Palestinians sang together One Day in English, Arabic and Hebrew in Haifa.  Perhaps then, all that was needed for the song Salaam was a little translation job, to change the language around and set the main part in Arabic, and let the refrain call out for the Hebrew Shalom?

It was worth a try. I decided two Arabic, Hebrew and English speaking real peace-makers for a translation of the song Salaam into Arabic. Rayek Rizek, the Palestinian author of the biographical book Anteater and the Jaguar, published first last year, and long-term resident of the peace village Wahat al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom, who also runs the cafe at the entrance of the village, provided me with a translation. Then I had it verified independently by Raphael Luzon, a famous Libyan Jewish exile in the UK, who is likewise well known for his intense efforts in Arab-Jewish relations and exchange. Already in the translation, the song had thus been operated on by peacemakers.

There it was Salaam in Arabic, with the refrain calling for Shalom, it did not even take long. With the aid of a transliterated version, it found its way first as a modest suggestion as a future contribution for the synagogue’s newsletter. This was until Tamara Wolfson, a US-trained Cantor, who recently became the first Liberal female Cantor of Britain who serves my Jewish community, Kehillah North London, asked me to present the song on Yom Tov, because she was going to discuss musical changes and variations of well known Jewish songs.

After an explanation and a read through the Arabic, on a stomach that had been empty since the evening before, the words became finally a song, first somewhat cautiously, then stronger with the whole congregation part-taking. “Od yavo shalom aleinu – Sayati alslam ‘elayna,” Peace, will still come upon us, the resounding hope could not be clearer.

Peace requires, as the song may have intended, the involvement of more than but one side. But in its original form, the song Salaam was not yet equal. The current change may be small, as the song has not many words,  but it is still quite significant. Now it is the perfect peace song, the Arabic calling out for the Hebrew and vice versa,  and what is more, it leaves anyone singing both the Arabic and Hebrew versions next to each other marvelling at the close similarity between the languages.

If making peace were but the singing of a song, and given the official impasse between Israel and Iran, perhaps future versions will add Persian, then it can not only be sung in Hebrew and Arabic, but also in and Hebrew and Persian and in Persian and Arabic, which could extend to the Yemen conflict. Or you could imagine a Greek and Turkish and a Kurdish and Turkish version, and so on, transforming the formerly Israeli and Jewish peace song into a global peace song, where-ever it may be needed. Singing is not the hard work of peacemaking, but as the song intended, it is an aspiration, a reflective directional orientation.

Back in London, where we premiered the song, it also suited the venue of the London Islington’s New Unity Chapel in which all of this happened. The synagogue had hired the hall for one day. In the past, some 200 years ago, it was the place where Mary Wollstonecraft sparked the British women’s movement. In September as we sang it,  Europe’s first Jewish liberal female cantor was creating space for the premiere performance of the most well known Israeli song for peace to become better, through an Arabic addition.

Immediately after this session, as our Jewish congregation moved into the main hall of the building for Yiskor, the Jewish remembrance service, the room we sat in was taken up for practice by another reformer, who uses song for change, the Navi Collective, a black women’s choir, that performs freedom and resistance songs. Peacemaking and change were in the air as we approached Motza Yom Kippur, the end of Yom Kippur.

It is all about what you believe should be true! Shalom, elyna w’el kul el’e alem!

 

English Transliterated Hebrew Hebrew Transliterated Arabic Arabic
Peace will still come upon us, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו Sayati alslam ‘elayna سيأتي السلام علينا
peace will still come upon us, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו Sayati alslam ‘elayna سيأتي السلام علينا
peace will still come upon us, Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu עוד יבוא שלום עלינו Sayatai alslam ‘elayna سيأتي السلام علينا
and everyone Ve al Kulam ועל כולם waal al’jamia وعلى الجميع
Repeat Repeat Repeat Repeat Repeat
Peace Salaam סלאם / שלום Shalom سلام
Upon us and the whole world Aleinu ve al kol ha Olam עלינו ועל כל העולם elyna w’el kul el-alem علينا وعلى كل العالم
Peace, Peace Salaam, Shalom סלאם, סלאם Shalom  Salaam سلام,  سلام
Peace Salaam שלום סלאם / Shalom سلام
Upon us and the whole world Aleinu ve al kol ha Olam עלינו ועל כל העולם elyna w’el kul el’e alem علينا وعلى كل العالم
Peace, Peace Salaam, Shalom ,סלאם / שלום Shalom  Salaam سلام,  سلام

 

 

 

Open Letter to Lord Hodgson on UK citizenship test

IMG_20180702_220922

4th of July 2018

Dear Lord Hodgson
on Friday I will take the citizenship test.
It is Brexit, that after nearly 30 years in the UK, made me apply for a UK citizenship.
As part of the requirement to prove my worthiness for a citizenship application, I have to pass a citizenship test.
Reading the guidance book Life in the UK was an exercise that left me speechless in parts.
I noticed that you have discussed the test recently in Parliament and that your committee found it to be lacking, if not an obstacle to citizenship. I agree.
As somebody who lived here for just under 30 years and who has acquired three UK university degrees (and half a PhD) and a vocational diploma, volunteered, sparked a functioning community group, who was a youth mentor for criminally endangered young persons, and who works as a correspondent, to name a few things, it is indeed an insult to even have to do this test. Moreover, it is a sheer travesty what is inside the book: huge omissions and shameful mistakes.
The sections on services, rights and expectations are fair enough, but the book fails:
  • because in its representation of modern Britain of the last 200 years and the figures, which it holds as important, it is narrow and almost wholly un-diverse, except in sports.
  • in the way it understates what the slave trade was about, dedicating more lines to the abolition than to what it was, not discussing adequately its range, giving no figures and that in fact it was the fundamental basis of Britain’s wealth.
  • in the way it does not look at critical aspects of Britain’s colonisation of the “ new world.”
  • in the way that it refers to the Empire as “just having grown”, rather than putting an honest recognition of how it grew, namely mostly by the barrel of the gun. Most migrants, if they come from countries once upon a time colonised, will know better, so it is disingenuine, if not deliberately misleading, given one version of events, that is explicitly hiding a truer more genuine account of history (one of my degrees is in history the other in (urban) sociology).
  • in the way that it states that the Empire was mostly “given up orderly,” but fails to mention that not all territories were given up, nor does it mention Gibraltar and the holding of the Falklands, as far as I could see, nor that there was a struggle and demand for decolonisation, if I read the book correctly.
  • because compared to its discussion of the Irish conflict, the colonial past is but a cosmetic footnote.
  • because in the World War Two section there is – and that let my jaw drop and triple check, I read correctly – no mentioning of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews of Europe, nor about Britain’s role in the liberation of some of the camps like Bergen Belsen, nor Britain’s role in the formation of the UN and British lawyers role in setting up the Universal Human Rights as a result.
  • because it says fairly little on institutions that are British in origin and unique such as Greenpeace, Save the Children, Peabody, Barnados, the co-operative movement, nor does it have much to say about the history of the unions.
  • I note you have highlighted further issues as reported here in the Daily Telegraph
It beggars belief that people applying for citizenship are examined on such a narrow one-sided and facts omitting book.
I think your committee should urgently revisit this book and question those who composed it, and those who composed the test and have it assessed by academic experts of UK society and history and philosophy and direct the Home Office accordingly.
Attention should be given to an inclusive account, that reflects Britain’s diverse populations adequately and respectfully.
In the climate of critique of the Home Office regarding the “hostile environment,” I believe you should not overlook this citizenship test and its guidance book.
With kind regards
Daniel Zylbersztajn

Answer from

The Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts CBE

House of Lords

London SW1A 0PW

Dear Mr Zylbersztajn

Thank you for this email. Last year, I chaired a Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. Our Report is available on the Parliamentary website (HL Paper 118). We did indeed make a number of comments and criticisms of the Citizenship Test (see para 463-473 of the Report). The Government have accepted our recommendations and an update of the Test has begun.

———————————
DANIEL ZYLBERSZTAJN

The Way things are done… A comment on Grenfell Tower and who is responsible.

Some spontaneous thoughts after another few weeks of coverage….

(slightly modified 20.15)

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)  is where the dichotomy between rich and poor is the gravest in London, perhaps in England or even Europe, with a long-entrenched history of disempowerment, discrimination, racism and political and economical cynicism and exploitation.

 

Whatever of the above ingredient you pick you will find twisted and dishonest ways, from the history of housing in Notting Hill to the demand for and the creation and mismanagement of the West Way Trust or the KCTMO and so on.

 

There is no doubt, that RBKC council felt that Notting Dale should be remoulded. In Andrew O’Hagan’s London Review of Books piece The Tower  Rock Feilding-Mellen, the former person to oversee decisions and financing of housing renovations denies to want to have wanted to kick out social housing tenants, but he does admit in the same stroke that he wanted to construct space for Kensington’s left out Middle classes, especially people in professional vocations who could not afford to buy, and were not catered for.

 

Whilst O’Hagan cites this almost in Feilding-Mellen’s defence, it is by itself an astonishing admission. To be clear social housing homes were to be demolished so those new denser units would make a little space for left out professionals. It is not that it was wrong to want to create such housing units for professionals. The question is rather, why were social tenants and their areas to bear that burden? Why were their houses seen as the legitimate sphere where things could be demolished and rebuilt in that way?

 

There are historical precedents of the council wishing to demolish against the wishes of locals. Take Frestonia for example, or sold churches and emptied and community centres and spaces. The Tabernacle, a Caribbean centre of activism in the 1970s only survived, and barely so, after a struggle to save it. What O’Hagan misses, when he talks of the battle for the local library, in whose place another was offered, is, that the fight to safe spaces is one that is based upon the experience and fabric of the area, and the distrust, that promises once made, won’t be changed in some way to the detriment or continued sell-out of the area and its people.

 

The movie Notting Hill, in which Hugh Grant starred so famously before he infamously was caught out in the act with the African American sex worker Divine Brown in the USA also had much to answer for.

 

The embarrassing incident of the actor might just as well be symbolic. The film of the area, world-famous for its Caribbean style carnival, was deprived of any African Caribbean characters, in fact, any meaningful characters with a darker skin colour. Notting Hill, the film that is,  was a fantasy of a European Eldorado was constructed by the film producer Duncan Kenworthy and director Roger Michell. It was certainly not innocent. Rather, it was created, like so many films, to maximise the profit value of the film in the parts of the world with lighter skinned people, who were then able to imagine themselves in Notting Hill without the risk of blackness. A vibrant area just waiting for you to move in. Notting Hill, that lie about the area, went on to win a BAFTA, a Brit Award and the British Comedy Award. Beyond being a laughing matter,  it was literally, in the Grant Hugh tradition, a proper f***-over Notting Hill’s black heritage and residents. Notting Hill’s estate agents were loving it. International white families who gained their extraordinary inflated salaries in the City – the very lot, that crashed the world in 2007 –  bought up, whatever they could in Notting Hill, filled the cafes and cramped up especially the areas around the state schools. Millionaires do not like to waste money when a school can be free if you want a cliche. But I know it to be true in some cases I witnessed myself. That is of course not a problem until some less fortunate kids are squeezed out of the catchment area for that school.

In  2014 the Strutt and Parker Estate Agent advertising went even further.  It stated, that some in Notting Hill – depicting a person of wider African – Caribbean background,  are “born to dance”, whereas others, explicitly, Jeremy Montagu-Williams, at the time property sales manager, a white English person,  “are born to sell flats.” That was the 2014 way of stepping over “No Negroes, No Dogs” of the 1950s. Community protest made this ad disappear from the streets of North Kensington and had any right to highlight it. It is unbelievable how much reality can be twisted. You can see it today in the cafes of Westbourne Grove, where you will struggle to see people of African Caribbean background. I saw it in the indifference of hordes of tourists on Portobello Road on Saturdays after the Grenfell disaster.

 

Of course, the film Notting Hill was but a symptom of a development that had started much earlier on. Already, in the 1970s buildings in which multiple families had lived and had rented, were being converted into single ownership villas for those with money to buy – but not quite enough to afford Knightsbridge, amongst them an ex-Rhodesian / South African family, escaping the onset of Black African rule, but bringing with them their wealth, and where the lady of the house became a long-standing Conservative councillor in Kensington (she has since moved up North where she continues to serve as a Tory councillor and even gained an OBE). 

 

The many years of attempted control over Notting Hill Carnival, cameras installed on Westway, questions over the carnival’s continuation, the constant regeneration of Portobello Road,and properties around. perhaps until all shops and cafes are global chains, the harassment of young black men with Sus Laws and Stop and Search policies, harassing anyone that did not fit the English white stereotype, all that created further antagonism towards the council, and what it allowed to happen, often enough, out of touch with residents, or so at least the feeling is. Feelings are important too, they are there to be disproven, and whilst there may be one or the other urban myth, or “narrative,” it does not need much to confirm the buying up of Notting Hill. 25 Million Pounds one property went for last year.

RBKC may have saved some social housing units, when other boroughs did not, but overall there was a deficit, not just in Kensington but all over London and England, created by national Conservative politics more than local perhaps, not much helped by Tony Blair’s new definition of affordable housing, and lack of investments under his watch.

The idea of a  redevelopment for the area around Latimer Road, however, kept coming up as an ambition by RBKC. A 2009 master plan for the area of Notting Barns South, in which Grenfell Tower stands, written on behalf of RBKC by the group Urban Initiatives overtly lies to achieve its ends. It misrepresents crime statistics, talks of irrational walkways, and presents wrongly the local community as near destitute.  Locals fought it, and won considerable battles. Sadly, Grenfell Tower was not one of these, though they rejected its demolition.

Any housing requires investment, repairs, modification to make it better, permanently. All over the country social housing estates were not receivers of generous repairs over the Thatcher years and beyond. That too must be remembered. A constant drop of water not fixed, can bring down a building. Funny how The Barbican, an almost entirely private high rise estate of the 1970s has no cladding, nor ever considered it.

 

Already in the 1980s, the local community was resolute that it wanted to have a higher hand in the management of the housing stock in RBKC so that things would get fixed when they need to. KCTMO was the answer all agreed to. But in the end, it was KCTMO that became resilient to consider the voices it was to consider, or so it appears. The inquiry will surely shed more light on that.

 

What we do know is that RBKC went ahead with reimagining Notting Dale. One sentence in the 2009 master plan for RBKC with surprisingly little evidence for it, judges, that “Grenfell Tower blights the view from Latimer Road.” What blights needs to be beautified. Cladding was the way to go, installed by others too. A massive high percentage of the refurbishment costs went into that.

 

You can picture those in decision making positions out for win win. In one go you could address heat insulation, and the shining metallic exterior, gave buildings a touch of ultra modern and contemporary, liked by all, including residents, for what did they know about grades of how flammable materials are. But ignorance in British law, especially by those who are employed or recruited to know, is no defence.

 

Residents had a list of other concerns, the usual stuff, really. Double glazing, leaks, functioning lifts, electric wiring, maintenance, cleanliness, fire safety, noise, better kitchen, cooking smoke extractors, hot water, and heatings, yes and some asked questions about fire safety too.

 

The windows installed in Grenfell were just as scandalous as the cladding, the cheapest possible plastic frames, and there were the fire doors, here low price trumped safety.  DId anyone ask questions?

 

You would think that legally, landlords are meant to be responsible for the standards of the houses in which they place tenants. Grenfell and houses like that, resembled in Rock Feilding-Mellens words, “savings in terms of risk management of the budget” rather than building risk management for residents. That was the two Pound saving per cladding panel to cut costs that degraded fire retardant to flammable.

 

And whilst there are 300 equally cladded buildings similar to Grenfell across the country, the ticking time bomb eventually blew up with  Grenfell Tower. The saga may be specific to Kensington and Chelsea but it is a symptomatic issue, beyond the borders of RBKC.

 

Not that there were no warnings. The Lakanal House Fire with its clear coroner’s recommendations being but one, and there were others. Nor that there were no guidelines on how to fit cladding, or whether to fit cladding at all  to high rise buildings. All this existed too. But it remained ignored and put aside by multiple agencies, all who could have raised concerns at any stage, if only one of them had.

 

As a result, unsafe buildings were constructed against evidence, and against best building practice, against best safety testing, because – well, because others did so, and because you could, everybody did. The man who jumps after the crowds who jump the cliffs also perishes. There are many people who bear a shared responsibility. If it will be builder, designer, fire tester, manager or owner, or even panel maker, who carry the largest responsibility that will be decided soon. It is a long chain and Grenfell Tower in RBKC is where it all blew up in murderous flames, exposing more than but just one ill, and consuming, no killing 72 people, some of whom were highly vulnerable.

 

For that at least Kensington will also have to answer questions. To place people with physical movement restrictions and disabilities in some of the highest flats, in a building in which often enough the lifts failed, what sort of responsibility and care is at work here? Do people get paid for such incredible way of housing allocation indifferent to the facts in front of them?

 

Not just the history of Kensington, not just the history of council and social housing, not just the history of racism and marginalisation, but also complacency in the building and construction trade, amongst those who carry out safety inspections for example, or consultations with the desired outcome for those who finance it, and quite likely a fire service that was not as well prepared and equipped, as it should and could have been, given the amount of new high rise buildings in London.  The fire services are being furnished and paid for by the public purse, and so that too, in the end, goes back to people who make decisions on budgets, people like the former mayor Boris Johnson in London, who closed fire stations against much uproar and opposition, which perhaps contributed to Grenfell, before he gave the country Brexit.

 

When campaigners shout the Tories have blood on their hands and posters are hung up in Kensington with Conservative politicians as the main culprits, it can sound like an too easy vilification. Yes, there is a political battle out there, Labour for sure wishes to score points. But such accusations are neither without any truth. At least the previous Labour ideologists demolished the Heygate Estate or sanctioned the Tottenham  development. The headings are always the same, to regenerate, to help, to do good. Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive of Southwark Council and, interestingly, designated leader of the government’s Grenfell Response Team, said, the Heygate Estate, was just not working. Many residents disagreed. The consultations and plans for Elefant Park the estate that followed Heygate, were similarly staged as in Notting Dale, and they were undersold to the developer Land Lease.  

What happened in Grenfell is too serious, to allow for monotone versions of blame or excuses from any one side. Thank goodness there is a public inquiry with competent lawyers and a criminal investigation too. Here at this time, one party after the other abrogates culpability. We just did as told, they say, pointing at the next person down. Well that, frankly, is no longer good enough in the light of so many dead. Let the lawyers and prosecutors deal with that.

Any person who has been given power that affects the lives of others has a duty to ask the right questions and as many questions as possible. What are the implications of this move? Is it risky? Is it best practice? Can it be checked again, and perhaps independently?  Can I rely on the independence of this body? Have I done the utmost rather than the minimum to warrant safety? What about external stairs, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, alarm systems, even drills? I

When people do not do that for a building that houses hundreds, you run into Grenfell Tower.   It is possible that the problem in Britain is not just one of a political and economic divide, but a true cavalier attitude to health and safety and best practice, often called Red tape and Nanny State by critics (there are lots of nannies about in Kensington, mind you).

Such behaviour rewards with quick gains without hard and solid labour, and without care or responsibility of the possible consequences.

That is also not exactly a condition fit for a country about to try to convince the world how good it is in doing things, as an independent nation outside the EU. Standards alone do not warrant themselves. They need to be safeguarded and tested.

When it comes to safety and best practice there can really only be but one standard. The standard that is safe for the most vulnerable person housed in a building. That standard exists in RBKC in many of the private flats, where pop and rock stars fight over the installation of underground swimming pools, when in the tower block a stone throw away the dry rise hydrants failed to carry water up to the flames.

The change that must follow Grenfell is therefore beyond the culpability of but a Conservative figurehead.  It is neither just about Labour or Tories. It must be a fundamental shift in how things are done regardless of who leads the country. It is about law too, like the Human Rights  (Article 25) that guarantee a standard of living adequate for housing and it is about robust and infallible safety standard bodies.

 
But of course, everybody knew how things have to be done, like former RBKC leader Nick Paget-Brown, the former head, from whom the sentence escaped, that in North Kensington the locals do not know how things are done. Evidently, for if they had 72 people would still be alive today – but some at least tried to do something, if only it was, in the end, but a bit of noise upsetting some know-it-all heads in the KCTMO!

Grenfell Remembered 2018

Some of my photos from remembrance events and protests 14/8/2018 and 16/6/2018 in North Kensington. A few have been taken out since posting, as I felt that they were potentially too invasive in one way or another.

Non-commercial use permitted as long as quoted as (c) Daniel Zylberszajn. Commercial users please enquire.