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THANK YOU DONALD. And happy new year.
Wednesday 11th January 2017 @ 16:00
THANK YOU DONALD. And happy new year.

Without your rise, I’d probably not have felt a more urgent need to close ranks with my Muslim friends, my Brown friends, my Black friends.

Without you, I’d not have felt the need to watch out for any behaviour of mine that might be tolerant of misogyny, or homophobia, in fact bullying of any kind.

Over-sentimentality set aside, from watching over my mother’s wounded heart, wounded almost irreparably by the half-decade spent living under the Nazis in Paris, I’ve increasingly wondered what living in an era of rampant abuse of power might look like.

But what the 60 million votes for you have spot-lighted, is that abuse of power is not starting with you.

Your election has forced me to look in the mirror and I can see quite clearly that white, prosperous, middle-class indifference to the plight of those left out has felt like an intimate betrayal of the worst kind, and has been a form of quiet fascism all its own.

I’ve known for a while that I had much work to do. So thank-you for providing more focus and urgency with regard to the work that needs to be done. You haven’t created the divisions we are all talking about now. You and yours may try to exploit them more cynically than we could have imagined but with the help of my friends, I know we will be able to mend and embrace rather than worsen wounds and drive farther apart.

I feel more aware, stronger, more focussed and more determined than at any time in my life. So thank you Donald for this extraordinary light shed on the path ahead.

I will mingle more. I will celebrate more and I will work much much harder to bring together, share and connect.

To all of us here : May 2017 be filled with joyful bridge-building.

Much love and light,

Sunday 1st February 2015 @ 12:00
And this is why...

I truly believe that submission, particularly of the ego, has a lot to offer those of us who think that the sacred right to freedom doesn’t come without the correlative duty to exercise it with restraint. My friends who tolerated my Ferrari/ Miami Beach years knows that I have sinned in this department probably more than most. Since then, in the face of the consequences of inconsiderate behaviour, I have been forced to reconsider. One of the main catalysts of this change centred around a chance encounter with Mohammed (pictured here), in God-forsaken Mauritania, Mohammed who stood stoic as bone-splinters were poking through his skin. At that time, my own existence was soaked in the sort of self-indulgence that can only come with the lifestyle of a CEO/ investment banker in New York. More on all that in a bit.

… dark, dark depressing France...

I’ve just spent a week in France with my ailing mother and then in Normandy. 

Paris reminded me of my adolescent years when I would occasionally pick up ‘Hara Kiri’ which then became ‘Charlie Hebdo’. I almost always found the content just loathsome. I’ve no problem with satire: Private Eye has often been homophobic, misogynous, wildly disrespectful of the establishment, but even if I am offended at times (ostensibly not because I am a lesbian Baroness) Private Eye adds some very sharp journalism to well-thought research and deep sardonic insight into the darker sides of the British psyche. I hurt a bit but I feel soothed by the inner chuckling. ‘Charlie' has never had any of P.E.’s  broad intelligence, or any its irresistible wit, yet carried all of the vulgarity and gratuitous disrespect. Glancing through it just made me feel slightly sick.

Normandy reminded me of that rather French national pastime : orgueil. There is no direct equivalent in English apparently but lets just translate it as ‘excessive, maybe self-destructive pride’. I’ve been working with our architect there for 20 years on various projecets. The architect and I had lunch. He’s complaining about his business levels being mediocre. I asked him how his English is. His answer ‘Froggy'. And there you have it. One of the most glaringly obvious trends of the past 15 to 20 years  for anybody involved in the service business, especially in highly tourist-driven areas: you gotta speak International. And International is English. Not French. Not German. Not even the Queen’s English. It’s the English of the Poles and the Germans and the Californians who want to visit one of the most important historical battle-grounds of the twentieth century (that would be Normandy) and will pay you money to do things for them. But my mate the architect doesn’t see why HE would have to adjust to the world changing around him. He knows better than most (he’s very very good at what he does), so why don’t people just adjust to him?

So I’ve left the land of great food (sorry Mum), with my same old sense: France is being left behind, decade after decade, because of a culture so arrogant and so driven by its sense of entitlement that it simply refuses to accept the world’s glaringly obvious changes or that it might have to adjust to these. The idea that these changes may be beneficial and actually fun is not even considered. Come on, if even the English can learn a little modesty (a little submission?) and take a soft stab at multi-culturalism… 

…meeting Mohammed in the desert (2002)…

Mauritania is where the Sahara goes to die in the mid-Atlantic. ‘Harsh’ doesn’t cover it. You leave the car for a few hours, you forgot your water bottle? You’re dead. The heat  and the elements felt as brutal as anywhere on earth. So when a tire burst on the jeep we were taking through a part of the Sahara that is somewhat passable, we stopped off at the local garage to get a fix. The ‘local garage' was actually a tent. And when I write ‘local’ , I mean we drove 15 kms on a bone-jarring rocky treck to get to this tent, which was the only shelter from the flying sand, the heat and the wind for - well - 15 kms. Mohammed helped fix the tire. Except he put his thumb in the way of a sledge hammer coming down on the tire to get it off its rim. He howled. And then went quiet. When we departed for our next destination, he offered to serve as guide. As there was no room in the cabin, he held onto the roll bar of the jeep, standing on the rear platform for 3 hours as we darted through the evening to the ocean, and then, at night fall, rested quietly with the rest of us in the large tent. It was only in the morning that I saw him bathing his wound in the sea. I asked him to show me, and saw bloody bone shards poking through the skin. The hammer had shattered his thumb. I still shake my head as to how oblivious I had been up to that point.

- 'Well off to Nouakshott with you then.’ I said. 'Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. You’ve got to get this seen to.’

- 'Hmmm… Let me think…  No, I think I have to stay: Mum needs the money I make here.’ I’m summarising but that was his decision and the basis for his decision. And he did stay.

There I had it. A few days prior, pretty much anything I wanted in my Manhattan loft, at any time of day or night, was mine for cash. Even somebody to listen to me whine for 10 dollars a minute. And here was Mohammed, owner of nothing, with a life-expectancy of maybe 30, submitting his own needs, possibly his own entire self to - well - his understanding of right and wrong.

…1.3 billion potential friends and teachers...

So what? Well, this is so what: I know there are many cultures that promote submission of the ego to the greater good. Or God’s Will. Or art (Art?). Or whatever. But during another nice lunch (yeah, I know, I’m not half-French for nothing) with a food-loving Sheyk I met in Manchester recently, it occurred to be that Islam is the only belief system that has 1.3 billion followers who seem to have self-abnegation (I believe  Muslims call it submission to God) as a central pillar to their lives.  As Judeo-Christian westerners, we have alongside us 1.3 billion people, 1.3 billion potential friends, 1.3 billion people whose values overlap so much that the denominations themselves often seem absurd, 1.3 billion people who can teach us a thing or two about setting our own needs aside, taking a good hard look at our ‘me’ culture and maybe peering out to a less ego-driven and more peaceful life. And you know what? If these 1.3 billion potential friends don’t want me to draw cartoons of their Prophet (Peace be upon him - yes), then maybe, just maybe, I can take that into account. After all, if I don’t have to offend my friends, I can try not to: these 1.3 billion people and their belief system deserve my respect.

… so maybe a little less about me...

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for forbidding much. Free speech? Legally speaking, have at it. You hold racist views? I don’t feel that the law should prevent you from expressing them. Same if you are anti-semitic, homophobic, or Islamophobic. I believe the community and the legal system should allow you that right, but I will not much support your use of those rights, definitely not your abuse of them. I will even share the responsibility and the consequences for your abuse of those freedoms but I will not hide that I think that you did wrong. I stand alongside the mourners. I know too well what it is to loose friends and close ones to a bloody massacre. But I think Hara Kiri and then Charlie Hebdo did wrong: If your friends and neighbours tell you they find something deeply offensive, which you can avoid doing, then why on earth do it?

I accept this:  how my friends and neighbours feel may occasionally be more important than what I feel I have the right to do. So there, right there, I submit. I submit to the greater good. I submit with joy quite aware of the apparently abject nature of putting myself aside, and I will also point out that this submission is something I have learnt in part from sitting, and eating, and talking with my Muslim friends. 
Martyrs Diary Photos
Friday 25th July 2014 @ 11:30


On the 11th September 2001, I watched wide-eyed as 83 of my colleagues found themselves trapped on the top floors of the twin towers. They phoned and emailed begging for help and then went silent, their lives soon lost to the smoke and flames that engulfed the World Trade Center. I was in New York, maybe 2 miles away, watching the events unfold on TV then from West 19th street, where I lived. Our offices-to-be (we were due to move in to the WTC in the summer of 2002), were on the 96th floor of the North Tower. They were reduced to dust. The aftermath of that day was a series of funerals, sedatives, more funerals and the steady deployment of the Bush administration's own onslaught of terror on America's own citizens. I was aghast at the loss of those I knew but I also felt quite certain that this monstrosity was hardly unprovoked. But on that day, as we watched the towers burn, at around 8h20 AM, I turned to one of my employees:

'This changes everything'. I said, with real hope.

I was wrong.

This moment of truth, this moment when America and the Western world were given a full-on presentation of the consequences of their treatment of the Eastern, mainly Muslim world, the consequences of a sociopathic pursuit of cheap energetic resources, was soon buried in a vengeful frenzy (Iraq mainly) that probably killed 100 times more Muslims than the terrorist attack on September 11th. Things didn't change. Or at least, they didn't change direction. They just worsened. Abuse of power became more acute and the often destitute peace-loving innocent population of the Middle East (Muslims, generally, again) just paid a higher price for Western hubris. The opportunity that was afforded to us to pause, contemplate and consider a God-loving generous response was lost in the hurricane of mainly home-grown terror that engulfed America.

9/11 and its aftermath were not an isolated data point in history. It was part of a long term pattern where the White European, particularly Anglo-Saxon world (the British Empire initially and the American Empire next) have first assumed unquestioningly that we know better, not just for us, but then, also that we know better for you too. Of course we do, we have nicer houses, clothes, cars. How we built our world that makes all these nice things, and at whose cost, we don't like to talk about too much. With that lead in technology and capital accumulation, we then put in place institutions and foreign policies that ensure that our culture and economic interests prevail, and how could it be otherwise since we have had the military and economic upper hand as far back as Poitiers. We have often reduced the Eastern world to economic and political servitude and then, should violent protest ensue, we inflict punishment that is ungodly in it disproportion.

And so it continues.

Hamas fires rockets into Israel. Am I right in assessing that these rockets were mainly initially ineffective? I will not belittle the loss of life in Israel and the stifling fear that my Jewish brethren in Israel have had to live in for generations. But what is unfolding now... 

The IDF, with its Western allies quietly quiescent, responds as the Netanyahu government instructs, and suddenly 600 Palestinians are dead. 100 Palestinian children are dead. In what world do the righteous respond to increased insecurity by killing 100 children? In what world do we start justifying our own crimes by those committed against us? 

In a world where our Judeo-Christian peace is paramount and where we view the lives of our Muslim sisters and brothers as probably quite worthless.

Well, I reject that world. I will not be held hostage to my fears of the men and women whose God bears a different name (but whose resemblance to mine is quite astonishing). I will not kill children so I can feel safe. I will sit, talk and eat with those who think we are enemies. Because the alternative is Hell. 

Please join me and Paul Stewart on Saturday in marching from the Israeli Embassy to Westminster. 

Pax, Salaam, Peace.

Martyrs Diary Photos
Wednesday 23rd July 2014 @ 10:00




Martyrs Diary Photos
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