Tuesday, February 23, 2010

top tip for Tuesday

top tip for tuesday
Only time for one tip this week, as I'm experimenting with the seat-of-the-pants style of editing the church mag: but what a tip it is.

John Smeaton: click to read original postLast Friday John Smeaton, director of SPUC (the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) drews a line in the sand in response to the Government's abusive proposals for sex education in schools, which bode ill for the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim voluntary grant-aided

Smeaton cites a Government media release praising St Thomas More's RC School in Bedford on the grounds that, among other things,
St Thomas More delivers SRE [sex and relationships education] through the pastoral programclick to go to the homepage of St Thomas More, Bedfordme in conjunction with the RE syllabus...the school explicitly recognises the reality that some young people may choose to be sexually active and, if that is the case, they need the knowledge and confidence to make an informed choice to protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs. The school nurse provides students with clear accurate information about the full range of contraception and STIs and details of local services...Pregnancy options, including abortion, are also discussed in a non-judgemental way with the RE syllabus requiring students to understand the spectrum of pro- and anti-choice views on abortion.
Smeaton provides a long list of tenets of the Roman Catholic faith that these grounds violate, after announcing that "I will be writing to St Thomas More school, asking them to confirm or deny the government's claims about what is happening in its school."

Damien Thompson - click to read his blog on the Catholic Education ServiceLater that day, the Telegraph's Blogs Editor, Damian Thomson forecast Bad Things for Oona Stannard, chief executive of the Catholic Education Service, which, as Smeaton identified, had helped the Government draw up its guidelines. Fr Tim Finnegan, a frequent flier on this feature, refers to both posts as he runs with the theme on his blog The Hermeneutic of Continuity. He asks how far the moral relativism will be taken:
I doubt whether you would get Healthy Schools Status if you taught that there was a range of views on the advantages of smoking tobacco; and I don't suppose there is meant to be a valid range of views on the pros and cons of nazism as a system of government. The relativism of Ed Balls and his friends who are setting the agenda for secular Britain is actually only applied to the "views" they disagree with, such as Catholic moral teaching on the sanctity of life, marriage, and the procreation of children.
The Government is mounting an attack both on one Faith and on faith. I remember minor Scottish politicians muttering about "Rome on the rates" and, as they have risen, they have dripped their poison slowly through the years in the hope that the erosion would create a cavity large enough to insert their specious moral outrage about "religion on the rates".

As John Smeaton notURGENT: read and act!es, today - Tuesday 23 - is the day when Parliament is due to vote on what is effectively the nationalisation of the bodies, minds and spirits of our children.

Smeaton remarks that St Thomas More "preferred to sacrifice himself rather than put the state's demands above the church's teachings", as can be seen in the 1966 film
A man for All Seasons starring, among others, Paul Scofield and Susannah York. I wonder if the Government was careful to use a school bearing his name as a Trojan horse to try to use the state's demands to extinguish the church's teaching?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Maasai medical mission 2010

A friend of Maxima's had a leaving do in the Draughty Old Fen yesterday, before she goes Hélène Evansto Africa.

Hélène Evans (right), a nurse from Cambridge, is leaving next month to work with a two-week medical outreach to the Naroka district of Kenya called the Maasai Medical Mission, which has been led by GP Dr Richard Scott since 2002, (bclick to read abot the Maasai joggersefore which he'd went to Kenya with Through Faith Missions) at the invitation of Pastor David Kereto.

I have to admit, to my shame, that I was ignorant of the Maasai people of East Africa until they touched my world in 2008. Six of the tribesmen from across the border in Tanzania - wearing recycled car tyres as shoes - came to run the Flora London marathon in order Samuel Wanjiru - click to see International Amateur Athletic Federation statsto raise money through sponsorship to instal a fresh-water well in their village. (The next year, the marathon was won by Kenyan runner Sammy Wanjiru, setting a course record).

Hélène writes:
the Naroka District of KenyaThe Maasi is a true pastoralist. Farming is anathema to them. They are hospitable, generous and affectionate, love their children, unbelievably domestic and gentle, and religious. They are firm believers in the one God - Engai, but are plagued by a fear of evil spirits. Bravest of the brave, a warrior tribe living the life they have lived over hundreds of years.
They see Engai as a creator-god associated with a mountaintop who gifted all the world's cattle to them. As well as travelling around the area to provide midwifery advice, dress wounds, treat malaria and the after-effects of polio, they will be bearing witness to another Creator God who was originally associated with mountains (see the experiences of Moses, Elijah and Jesus).Again Hélène writes:
Who is my neighbour in today's global village?

99% of all maternal deaths, 98% of all child deaths and 80% of all AIDS deaths occur in the developing world, yet this is the place where resources and workers are fewest. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 3% of the world's health workforce cares for 10% of the world's population bearing 24% of the global disease burden - with less than 1% of the global health expenditure.

The Good Samaritan helped a stranger because he saw this desperate need. How can we respond to the enormous needs we see in other parts of the world? There are many ways we can get involved - going, giving, praying, partnering, teaching, trainiPastor David Keretong - and more. Maasai Medical Mission aims to play a part in bringing God's love and care to some of the poorest people in the world.
Hélène is asking for three things:

First, pray: for Dr Scott, Pastor David Kereto (right), Hélène, and the rest of the Maasai Medical Mission 2010 team.

Second, if you can contribute financial aid (towards eg flights/food/water/petrol/staff costs etc) or medical supplies, please contact Hélène on penhydd1740@yahoo.co.uk.

Maasai Medical Mission 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

top tips for Tuesday

top tips for tuesday, ash wednesday
click to read about a vicar's Lenten fast from bloggingVicar and blogger David Keen gives lots of reasons to give up blogging for Lent. I'm not contemplating a Lenten fast from cyberspace, but with more things competing with my time something's got to give, and after the shouting's done over here that might be the blogging. I found reason (4) very compelling, but the killer quote was from Reginald Foster - that we should fast from what we sense is becoming a compulsion.
click to read Bosco Peters' post on Ash Wednesday

Revd Bosco Peters of the Liturgy blog wrote a post on Shrove Tuesday and its relation to Mardi gras and, as Ash Wednesday approaches, here's his reflection on the day's Collect and observing Lent.
click to read Risa's greeting for Adar

I've read Rabbi Shai Specht's one-line explanation of the month of Adar as "the Jewish Mardi Gras" - here Risa from Isramom wishes everybody a Happy Adar!
Labour MP David Wright has got himself into a bit of a pickle. A tweet in his name referred to his political oclick here to go to TotalPoliticspponents as "scum-sucking pigs" ("if you put lipstick on scum-sucking pigs they're still scum-sucking pigs" - an obviously irresistable dig at Sarah Palin). If he'd put his hand up and said it was a stupid mistake we'd all have moved onto the next gaffe, but instead he seemed simultaneously to defend the remark as "legitimate comment" and claim that his twitter account had been hacked, turning the issue into one of ministerial propriety. Here, TotalPolitics director Iain Dale reproduces a letter from Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Party, asking him to answer several questions on the affair.

We've just had Valentine's Day, and this is the most poignant image I could find posted on that day: a US military nurse whispering into the ear of an unconscious Canadian soldier as they fly him to a hospital base in Afghanistan. May God be with all the Coalition troops as they roll out Operation Moshtaraq.
click to read some counterintuitive wisdom on marketing using new media

Seth Godin explains how companies racking up as many followers as possible on Facebook etc are on a hiding to nothing compared with viral growth of an idea or product starting from a very small base.
click to read David Appletree's review of the Algemeiner Facebook fan page

The name of Elie Wiesel has been sorely misused in the climate debate, therefore I recommend you help restore the balance by following David Appletree of the Jewish Internet Defense Force's advise on his new project, the Advisory Board of the Algemeiner.
click to read Fr TF's post on priests and the new media

Fr Tim of the Hermeneutic of Continuity writes on the Pope's encouragement of priests to use the opportunities afforded by new media, and includes a YouTub video entitled "Why am I a Catholic"?
click to read about the similarity between the UK satellite system and a famous sci-fi film

Richard Normington worries about where the people who thought up the name for the UK's military satellite system got their inspiration from.
we're meant to talk to meat?  Click for enlightenment

"We're supposed to talk to meat?". Sci-fi author Terry Bisson posts the correct version of a legendary short story of his that has been orbiting around cyberspace.

touching home: the day after Valentine's

Mindnight having passed, this should really be called "the day after the day after Valentine's", but then I suppose that depends on where you are when you're reading it.

Maxima and I try to refrain from going overboard with cards and gifts now that the girls are a little older. We celebrate Christmas religiously, but otherwise don't bother too much with cards etc. Except when we do. That's the problem with an unofficial arrangement.

better late than never - click for poems for Valentine's DaySo I was nonplussed when Maxima handed me an envelope that morning, with a very nice card touched my heart. She left the room to do something - at which Minora came in, slipped an envelope into my hand and whispered in my ear - in a manner a Sergeant Major would be proud of - "fill it in!" I know when I'm licked.

I can't lay my hand on the card right now, but I remember the verse being a little treacly. Was this the only card she could find, or is that how she sees love between a couple who have nearly been married 20 years? Or is that how our love would seem to me if my tired old hull weren't so barnacled?

I remember a party my Uncle and Aunt had for their 25th wedding anniversary - he said he loved her, and went bright red. It was the first time, I believe, their children had heard it said 'twixt one and the other. It was almost like a line I once read in a classic detective story set in Sicily by Leonardo Sciaclick to read a review of Il Giorno della Civetta (in Italian)scia called Il Giorno della Civetta (later made into an Italian-language film with Claudia Cardinale) where the detective asks a newly-widowed woman "Did you love him?" and she answers "Of course - we were married". I don't want the girls, in the future when we're gone, to assume that we must have loved each other because we were married, because unfortunately, even these days, it ain't necessarily so. I'm glad that they can hear us say it as well as see us show it, like the two sides of a coin.

After attending a service of Holy Communion at St Gallicus we came home and dinner was put on. I hadn't been aware of my mood being slightly elevated towards the end of the week, but I felt a leaden weight drag my mind down while mashing the potatoes. Maxima saw me slow down and start to slouch, and placed me at the table while she finished the tatties. Yet again, with my family around me, I experienced love as the safety-net under the trapeze.

Thankfully we were able to attend St Gallicus for a Valentine's Day Celebration of Marriage, one of hundreds that were happening up and down the country. There were twedding ringshree hymns from the top ten wedding hymns during the service - Amazing Grace, Make me a Channel of your Peace and Praise my Soul the King of Heaven. Between the second and third the married couples faced each other and renewed our wedding vows, saying "I took you..." and "with this ring I wed you...", etc. With a peal of bells beforehand and a slice of cake and glass of champagne or orange juice afterwards, it was good to touch home with where we'd started out all those years ago - scrape off the barnacles, as it were.

I didn't feel well enough to the discussion on theology Rector Pellegrina was hosting that evening, but it was a lovely day and - one of the major points, I think - Minora and even Minima (now a teenager) had went a little misty eyed at the flowers, bells, etc. The service was thoroughly grounded in the conticlick to read Bishop David's sermon, given at Queen's College, Cambridgenuing theological thread concerning marriage running through the Old and New Testaments (hardly surprising, since the Christian Bible starts with one marriage and ends with another). I found this all the more comforting for not feeling too great; something Richard Dawkins would sneer at, but I think Bishop David Thomson, in his Valentine's Day Sermon on the Four Loves, explained it consummately: "Religion is easily accused of being a crutch, but I have no problem myself with an A and E department if I’ve been in an accident, and life is full of accidents." Amen to that.

I never had time to write all this down on Valentine's Day as I had to be up early for work - which compliments medication excellently in putting mental illness in its place - but I hope your Valentine's day was good or, if it wasn't, that it wasn't too bad. Touch home more than once a year.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

body image isn't all it looks like

Cavete: discusses and links to material some people may find disturbing

When I was in my mid-teens I developed acne. Never having been one to do things by halves, mine was in the form of angry boils flowering luxuriantly over my fizzog. I didn't have much of a problem with it, and didn't get more hassle than one might have expected in a working-class Glaswegian housing estate.

Then I went to university in Italy, and the head of my college decided he did have a problem with my acne, and at his insistence I set out on courses of antibiotics and various other pills and potions - one of which, as I remember, turned my first wee of the morning bright red, which was quite a thing if you weren't prepared for it.

During my first year at uni I fell into a deep depression, and I wonder if the head's effective declaration that my appearance was undesirable contributed to the mix of being away from home from the first time and studying like I'd never done before. But the past can be a dangerous place to form assumptions about, so who knows?

Aled Jones - click to go to the SurgeryI found myself thinking about this period of my life for the first time in a while after an advert directed me to BBC Radio 1's listen-again feature, where Aled Jones from the Chris Moyles show (me neither) had hosted a "surgery" about body-image, when a young man called in to speak about his desperation that nothing his doctor gave him was touching his acne. I felt for him.

An American psychotherapist called Aaron Haydn Jones explained the process of filtering, whereby we might ignore 100 positive comments and dwell on one negative one. I can't argue with that - Richard Carpenter attributed one journalist's comments about his sister's weight in the early 1970s to her tortured death in 1983.

The show, however, wasn't exclusively about anorexia and bulimia as such but about unhappinesses with one's body (which might admittedly feed the pathogenesis of one of these terrible illnesses). I started to wonder about the direction of the show when one chap rang in to complain about the shape of one of his eyebrows, but then a young woman said that she'd had problems with her mum after she (filia) had a breast reduction: Aaron was running with the ball immediately, and wondered if the girl had had cosmetic surgery for what was a relational problem, and spoke of feelings of jealousy - or at least displacement - that can sometimes occur between mother and daughter, father and son. Then, of course, another young woman rang in to complain that her breasts were too small.

Fearne Cotton: click to see which is the real oneSomething that's been in the news recently is airbrushing - a case in point being a photo of model Phillipa Hamilton where her waist appears smaller than her head, an image that made fashion house advertisers Ralph Lauren regret their use of Photoshop and ultimately issue a reluctant apology. To indicate the power of the program, some Radio 1 figures allowed their images to be retouched and posted on the website.

Where things started to get interesting was when Emma Ledger, deputy editor of More clebrity magazine, came on the show briefly to say that the publication had no policy as to the sizes of models whose photos it published, and that it only airbrushed to get rid of zits or tidy up hair. "Who wants to see a zit on the cover of a magazine?" she moaned, and suddenly I realised that perhaps punk had a point after all.

The first thing I did was to reflect that if a mag is publishing pics of clothes that are supplied to it, its in-house policies on model sizes are meaningless if the sample garments supplied toAbigail Blackburn - click to read more about pregorexia and celebrity magazines it only fit "size-zero" models; something which caused (British) Vogue editor Alexandra Schulman to fire off an angry letter to designers.

The second thing I did was to buy a copy of More, and try not to look too embarrassed as I payed for it. This is something I did when suspicious about Now editor Abigail Blackburn's protestations of innocence to Louise Redknapp, who had accused her magazine of triggering "pregorexia; the issue of Nowclick to go to tesco.com and make up your own mind brought out to coincide with Redknapp's crusading documentary was a celebrity pregnancy special, but the devil was in the detail, and the detail turned out to be in the back issues.

I have no back issues of More, but on flicking through the magazine did find an advert for Tesco Clothing Online featuring a photo of a woman who looked as though she had other priorities than eating. Had the magazine been supplied with the pic, or with clothes that would only fit somebody of her dimensions?

What caught Maxima's eyes made a bee in her bonnet buzz furoiusly: she pointed to a photo of Sarah Harding of Girls Aloud with (I think) Tom Crane, and, pointing to Crane's form (which compared to mine looks skeletal), demanded to know why men could look any way they wanted while women had to look like Barbie. At least she let up quite soon - one Hogmanay she went on and on about male performers looking like they'd been dragged through a hedge while female ones were expected to exude glamour. At least sKellan Lutzhe had a point. But I hope the bloke who phoned in to complain about his eyebrow never had a look at the "More man of the week" (Kellan Lutz from vampire flick Twilight); no wonder illicit steroid sales are booming, as vulnerable young men think they have to "get ripped". It's not for me to contradict Emma Ledger and say that the photo was digitally manipulated, but Radio 1 DJ Vis showed that it could be done (see pic below).

Radio 1 Xtra DJ Vis - click to see the full-size picsLedger did stress that her magazine was for 18-26-year-olds ("of all shapes and sizes"), but the feature that gave me most cause for concern was nothing to do with body-image, rather "position of the week", demonstrated with Barbie and Ken dolls. I thought of the poor girl who texted Jones' show to say that she only felt good about herself if a boy told her she was pretty, and felt furthermore that the only way to bring this about was to sleep with said boy. I remembered sadly the travellers' tales of former colleagues in drugs work, who had given talks to schoolchildren and reported back that girls said that some boys threatened to spread the word that they were "frigid" if they refused to have sex. Sometimes we fellows are unconscionably nasty people, and moreover, while More is by no means the worst offender, I'm also not sure what Ms Ledger thinks happens to somebody on their 18th birthday to make them less vulnerable to masculine con-tricks than they were at 17 years and 364 days old.

Now I only look in the mirror on those occasions when I have no choice but to shave and comb my hair; but I remember a strange young man who would examine his image, although I'm no longer sure what he was looking for or even at. Young people today are not the means to enrichment of the staff of celebrity magazines and/or the shareholders of companies that own them. It's no cliché that children are the future: young people will father and bear our grandchildren, will work in supermarkets and universities and, among a milion other things, will hopefully enjoy life enough to convince the grumpier among us that there's a point to it all.

And, on a personal note, I'd like to send a message to the young man with acne. Nothing worked for me either - but it faded in every way as I got older.

Related posts:

Abigail Blackburn and the truth about pregorexia

Claire Sweeney's big fat...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

the empty seat

Sitting on the sidelines is a favourite occupation of mine, and I avail myself of the luxury whenever it occurs.

So when I read on Richard Normington's blog that there was going to be a debate featuring the Conservative, Green, Labour and Lib Dem candidates, I headed to Cambridge's B-Bar, and was gratified to see that beside the seats there were half-a-dozen stools.

Sitting on one of them, I was party to a conversation between a young lady and a gentleman who had occupied the seemingly unoccupied seat next to her. He asked if it were fair that a seat that didn't even have a bag on it was deemed to be occupied and she replied that it had been agreed beforehand that her friend would sit there. He vacated the seat - eventually - and met a very nice lady with whom he had a loud conversation about whether a seat with nothing on it could be considered to be "booked".

The four candidates in the debate were Nick Hillman for ther Conservative Party, Tony Juniper (Green), Nick Huppert (Liberal Democrat) and Daniel Zeichner (Labour).

My money for the election is on Nick Hillman. Not because I'm a conservative (which I am), but because one of the first things he spoke about is relevant to my immediate family. The debate was sponsored by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership; all the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates mentioned Cambridge University's potential to provide leaders, and rightly so: but Nick was the only person to mention Cambridge Regional College in the context of learning to be a builder. My daughter Minora has no desire to be an academic, but she wants get a job so that she can earn money and buy nice things.

Nick later mentioned that Cambridge is good at producing eminent professors, but not perhaps so good at producing, say, competent engineers. Personally, I used to enjoy a conversation about the ablative absolute with Professor Calculus of blessed memory, but we both agreed that when your boiler's gone south, you need somebody who's been trained to fix boilers (who, the job having been done, might very well have wanted to talk about the ablative absolute).

I didn't forsee emerging with a respect for the position for another party, but the Green's Tony Juniper eschewed the language of the debate being over, and left me with a longing for a time when those of us on both sides of the climate change debate can cool our heels and concentrate on what needs to be done.

I felt sorry for the Labour candidate, David Zeichner, who said in his opening speech that the Conservatives might win. But I must admit to being a bit confused as to when he said that if the Conservatives won there would be no going back, because we'd go back to Mrs Thatcher's time: answers on a postcard please...

Zeichner appeared to be angry about everything he spoke about. At one point he referred to the number of young people "coring through apprenticeships", and he had every right to be proud of this, but it didn't seem to occur to him to deal with why apprenticeships had died: trade union stewards were put under pressure to oppose apprenticeships because apprentices were perceived to be doing work on the cheap (Zeichner is a national political officer for the trade union Unison).

What confused me most was Mr Zeichner's statement that, in 90 days, "our financial decisions may be taken by George Osborne and we will be part of an experiment that has only been tried once before, in Ireland, and we've all seen how that's going". He then appeared to excoriate Nick Clegg because he might support the party with the most votes - but that's not my reading of Clegg's interview with the Telegraph.

I think the most human part of the night was when a distressed lady asked people not to vote for "the witch", by which she meant "Magus Lynus Shadee", who claimed to have performed a ritual that would make somebody commit suicide. She made a special request that a photocopy of the Cambridge News article be given to "the Conservative". Nick had the eejit nailed - he wanted to open a shop, and was seeking attention.

It's significant that Nick Hillman is a historian, because history is about what worked, what lasted, what doesn't need fixing. It seemed to me that the Labour candidate, God bless him, had made his mind up beforehand what Nick was going to say and this informed his reaction, because very little of what Zeichner said was relevant to Nick's presentation.

It seemed to me that Mr Zeichner not only had his seat booked, but had reserved the empty chair next to him in order to occupy it with a conservative bogeyman that exists only in the Labour collective consciousness. I hope things work out well for him. Personally, I'll be voting for Nick Hillman, because I want to vote for somebody who cares, and who is part of a government that not only cares but does it in the real world.

Monday, February 8, 2010

top tips for Tuesday

top tips for Tuesday
click to read the post on Bosco Peters' Liturgy post

Revd Bosco Peters from the Church of New Zealand, part of the Anglican Communion, reflects on a classic 1970s paper on social networking to look at the strengths and weaknesses of Sola Scriptura, the Reformation doctrine that everything one needs for a Christian life is contained in the Christian Bible.
click to read about the John Birch Society on Naomi Litvin's blog

Naomi Litvin, author of Holocaust memoir and love story We Never Lost Hope, investigates the John Birch Society, which was instrumental in keeping Jews out of country clubs but disappeared up its own paranoia, and finds a sinister wall of silence. Be sure to check out Part Two of this intriguing search by clicking the link at the bottom of the post.
click to read more about Nick Hillman's week

Nick Hillman, PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for the city of Cambridge, gives a diary providing a fascinating insight into a week in the immediate run-up to the general election campaign. I felt tired after reading this.
Government members got an answer to Stalin's question as to the whereabouts of the Pope's divisions recently when Pope Benedict XVI made a dramatic intervention reminding Britain that equality is not click to read more about the petition on the Hermeneutic of Continuityan end in itself while Harriet Harman's (Minister of Equality) Equality Bill was going through Parliament. The result: the clause in the Bill, which would have forced all the Christian denominations in the country to admit gay people, transexuals and atheists to the priesthood, regardless of their views on these matters, was dropped without recourse to the Parliament Act - which was used to ensure hunting with hounds was banned - to force it through. Here Fr Tim of The Hermeneutic of Continuity provides a link to a petition in support of His Holiness' visit to Britain. He has shown himself capable of walking in his predecessor's shoes, and I recommend you sign it.
click to view these beautiful and unique photographs

The Big Picture (News Stories in Pictures) reminds us that dogs and sleds have been prominently figured in the news recently, and provides 30 beautiful pics of dogs, snow and sleds. Depending on the speed of your modem, may take a while to load.
click to read more details about Vodafone and the obscene tweetThe media noise about a banker being caught in flagrante cyberdelictus ogling a naked model while his colleague was being interview appeared to have drowned out Vodafone's embarrassment over an obscene Tweet coming from one of its employees during working time, but the latter case seems to have sent more bloggers rushing to their keyboards. In the light of the Vodafone kerfuffle, Fresh Networks presents managers whose employees may have to use social media with a guide to getting them used to the new communications media.
click for the 10 Commandments of Political Blogging

It's neither Exodus nor Deuteronomy, but this list of The 10 Commandments of Political Blogging from The Conservative Blog is an essential guide from an experienced blogger.

click and read about JD Salinger's secrets

David Blackburn of the Spectator Arts Blog regrets that J.D. Salinger may have taken his autobiographical secrets with him.
click to read how the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti is getting on.
Artist Edward Rawson is the son of Ian Rawson, Managing Director of the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. Rawson filius writes a guest blog on his time helping in the earthquake-stricken country.
come and read more about Lukas!
And finally - Lukas is the latest addition to Cambridge Constabulary's class of trainee police dogs. His handler named him after Lukas Dryml, a Czech speedway rider who used to ride for the Peterborough Panthers. In a charming first post written in Lukas' own paw, rad all about the puppy's first Christmas.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

start something: a cry for prayer

I've been compiling pubicity material for St Gallicus for much of the day and had resolved to have a night off blogging. Then I got an email from ChinaAid to the effect that Gulinuer, wife of imprisoned Uyghur Christian Alimujiang Yimiti from Xinjiang Province, has made a request.

Yimiti was jailed for revealing state secrets. Former British diplomat Tim Collard, who has worked in China, put this in context last year:
"revealing State secrets"...that’s pretty serious. It’s hardly a sign of tyranny – you get prosecuted for that over here. The problem is that, under Chinese law, any information which has not been specifically released by the government’s information office is a state secret. The great dissident Wei Jingsheng got 15 years in 1979 for revealing that China was fighting a war with Vietnam, although many Chinese families had already found this out the hard way.
Gulinuer's request is simple: pray. Click her photo to see a video of her request, oclick to see a video of Gulinuer's petition for prayerr click here to read the text of her petition for prayer. (And click on the photo of Alimujiang at the bottom to read about governmental persecution of Chinese house churches in general.)

Nothing's ever simple - for example, Collard suggests that one of the reasons Yimiti was put on trial was to stave of Al Qaeda sabre rattling; he had converted to Christianity from Islam in 1995. Prayer might not always bring injustice to an end in and of itself, but its always a good place to start from. Let's start something.

Related posts:

Christians in Xinjiang are suffering too

Sport isn't worth that much - Yimiti's Olympic struggle

click to read ChinaAid's latest Annual Report of Persecution of House Churches in China

sport: is morality the enemy at the gate?

Kenny Dalglish in Celtic 'hoops'I was never a sports fan; but it's so pervasive that, even being averse to it if not phobic, I was caught up by the cloud of depression caused by Kenny Dalglish's departure to Liverpool from Celtic that hung over our school for a day. I think I went home and gazed at his picture on one of the football cards you got with bubble-gum broclick to read about the comeback of I-spy booksught from ice-cream vans and mentally asked, "how could you do it?" But I was better the next day, and was back in the school's small car-park with my Eye-spy Book of Cars.

The behaviour of sports personalities off the pitch, field or course has been high in the media spotlight recently but, in an article whose title refers to Pele's description of football as "the beautiful game", the Telegraph's Mick Brown shows us that extra-curricular activities are nothing new:
Sir Stanley Matthews - click for his obituaryOne of the more poignant football stories this week was the revelation that during the Second World War those two examplars of a finer age of Corinthian values, Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen, were arrested for trying to sell contraband coffee and soap while playing an international match in Belgium. Their excuse, touchingly, was that they needed the money to buy presents for their wives. The two men were given formal reprimands, and the incident buried away in Ministry of Defence documents which have been kept secret for more than 65 years.
However, stories coming out in recent years seem to be of a more serious nature than spivviness.

Gazza: Paul GascoigneFor example, we had the infamous "dentist's chair" incident in the 1996 European Cup, where members of the England Football Team adopted the posture of a client of said professional to have spirits poured into their mouths. The incident probably had a two-way relationship with Paul Gascoigne's increasingly problematic drinking; as the Guardian's Mark Watson wote last year, "if Gascoigne's gluttony ended up being his fatal flaw, the media were equally greedy for details of his impending downfall. The tabloids who demand 'GET HELP FOR THIS MAN' these days are, by and large, the same ones whose relentless scrutiny fuelled Gascoigne's decline."

More recently, a presumably fatigued Tiger Woods has been intimately linked with nineteen women. But compare his attendance at a clinic that treats addiction to sex while Iris Tiger WoodsRobinson, MP in the devolved Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland, who had a fling with one man who fleeced her for £50,000, told all in a BBC documentary and is now a star on Facebook, was taken into psychiatric care when the scandal broke. I'm not trying to say that committing adultery with one person is more excusable than committing it with nineteen, merely that being diversity-ridden does not protect society from institutionalised sexism.

It's as if sports stars, whether playing or not, are in an enclave where normal morality is kept at the gates. In an essay on Moral Reasoning in the Context of Sport, David Shields and Brenda Bredemeier of the Univesity of Missouri's Center for Character and Citizenship state they found in a study of 50 college students that "the nonathletes had significantly more mature moral reasoning than did the basketball players", explaining:
David Shields: click for biowe also noted that in the philosophical and social science literature on play, games, and sport it was commonplace to discuss these activities as somehow "set apart" from everyday life. The noted philosopher Huizinga, for example, described play as "a stepping out of 'real life' into a temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own". Handelman, an anthropologist, wrote that entry into the play realm reqBrenda Bredemeier - click for biouires "a radical transformation in cognition and perception". Schmitz, a sociologist, similarly suggested that play transfers participants into a world with new forms of space, time, and behavior, "delivering its own values in and for itself".
Now we have the news that John Terry, captain of the England football team, had an affair with the wife of his team-mate Wayne Bridge - but there's something different here. Famously strict England manager Fabio Capello, in seeking to lance "the most pernicious boil threatening his meticulous preparations for the World Cup", indicated that he's opening the gates of the enclave when he asked Bridge if he would be prepared to play under Terry's captaincy, the result being that England is seeking a new captain.

One could argue that heaping more money and fame upon young males than they can reasonably be expected to cope with is asking for trouble. It's a compelling argument and is in many cases true, but there's more. Firstly, huge amounts of money pumped into sport by TV deals and sponsorship that distort the playing field in every sense - from which even the sedate world of cricket isn't immune; secondly, the fête-'em-and-slate-'em attitude embraced by celebrity magazines and the worse tabloids which assumes that being in the public eye is a hubristic act that must be punished by astounding violations of privacy; and thirdly, a notion on the part of the Establishment that success - that being known for being good at sport, perspicacious at business, or just being known for being known - is an end in inself and a "get out of jail free" card.

However, Capello's reaction to his former captain's phiandering - making Terry the first England player demoted for non-football-related matters - wasn't the only surprising thing about the affair; the "other woman" has announced that she won't be selling her story. If things keep going on like this, I might just look out my old football cards.