Stranger Here Myself

We went to a Proms in the Park concert in Bedford last night. There were the usual favourites, finishing up with singing Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory, and then watching a firework display while the orchestra played 633 Squadron and Live and Let Die. Great fun. The people waving flags all over the place gave me an unusual burst of national pride.

Aled Jones was there, much to the delight of the grannies. He has an excellent singing voice: I don’t think I’ve heard him sing since Walking in the Air all those years ago. Among other things, he sang How Great Thou Art, which is apparently the nation’s favourite hymn.

I once sang it on a hillside in Derbyshire, on a CU houseparty. It was night. We could see the lights of the village below (whose residents hopefully couldn’t hear us). There was a cloudless, starry sky. I see the stars, indeed. Aled Jones’s singing, beneath another clear night sky, was fiercely evocative of that moment, one of those echoes which left me feeling strangely dissociated. The music can revive the emotions from that time, but the reason behind them has gone, and, of course, these days any emotional response associated with Christianty is also tinged with something of the pain of loss (although it’s not particularly searing, thankfully, more a sort of nostalgia).

So, I came home and watched the latest episode of season two of Battlestar Galactica, which fell off the back of a lorry and landed at my feet, guv’nor. It’s good stuff, although as some fans have said, I live in fear that the writers don’t actually know where they’re going, and the whole thing will end up like The X-Files. Still, there are some obvious future plotlines being set up, so we live in hope.

Someone on a web page I was reading the other day compared the present unpleasantness to the Idiran-Culture war. I do hope not: the things a highly technological society can do when forced to defend its very existence don’t bear thinking about. With that in mind, and with my Stephenson “some cultures are better than others” hat on, Blair’s latest proposals sound like a good idea.

5 Comments on "Stranger Here Myself"

  1. I have concerns about political measures being applied in the name of defending a nation against terrorism, where such measures may in practical terms end up being applied as a convenient way to achieve other aims. I worry about how the proposed measures will be arbitrated, and who will determine what constitutes “encouraging terrorism”. Mr Blair will have to consider such issues carefully during the proposed consultation period if he’s going to convince me that these measures are not just knee-jerk, Daily Mail-pleasing proposals.

    I’m somewhat unnerved by the suggestion in the summary of the proposals on the BBC site that the measures should “Amend human rights laws, if necessary, to prevent legal obstacles to new deportation rules.” This proposal contains the consciousness that the package of measures proposed is not human-rights friendly; I dislike the suggestion that Blair feels that current human rights laws are a mere inconvenience that can be legislated away to achieve his new ends. Although I accept that laws are not static, I do feel human rights laws exist to prevent the abuse of the rights of groups and individiuals in society who are particularly at risk, and changing them on a whim to remove this protection is distasteful to me.


    1. It remains to be seen whether human rights legislation will get in the way of Blair’s plans, I think, so what he’s saying is that he’s willing to amend them if they do.

      I don’t know how seriously to take the “Londonistan” stuff in the press, but if it is true that people who preach stuff which may be treasonable were previously welcome here, I’d like to see that change. Most of the proposals seem to be to do with not letting people in, or with deporting people who have outstayed their welcome. I don’t see them as placing naturalised British Muslims at risk.


  2. Subject: Anti-terrorism laws and human rights

    I can’t help but feel that nothing the current administration says it is doing in the name of fighting terrorism will ever be credible again. They took us to war against Iraq, yet have now admitted that no WMDs were really there and they were advised that this would increase the risk of a terrorist attack at home. They have fiercely advocated the use of biometric identity cards, yet have now admitted that the benefits were over-sold. They have arrested thousands under the Terrorism Act and yet only a tiny fraction of those have ever even been charged with terrorism-related offences, never mind convicted. I’m not exactly bursting with faith in their judgement of what they “need” to fight terrorism at present.

    Now they want to set aside human rights legislation — again — because it’s inconvenient. It’s supposed to be inconvenient! It is the safeguard that stands in the way of the fundamentally unreasonable when convenience makes you want to do it. There is no value to having such legislation if the government of the day can simply ignore it when it gets in the way, and every time the government of the day does ignore it, it takes us a step further to becoming the very culture we are supposed to be protecting ourselves against.


    1. Subject: Re: Anti-terrorism laws and human rights
      I certainly don’t support the war in Iraq or ID cards, however, these proposals aren’t either of those. It seems obvious to me that we should not welcome people who come here to tell others to take up arms against us. I’m not sure it will contravene any European human rights legislation: apparently, the French have been doing the same sorts of things (search for “deport” in that article), and I’m not aware that they have any opt outs from the relevant European legislation.


      1. Subject: Re: Anti-terrorism laws and human rights

        Of course those who actively advocate breaking our laws should be held accountable; terrorism is no different to any other law in this respect as far as I’m concerned.

        However, there is a huge difference between going after people who are active advocates of killing people, and assuming (as also mentioned in Blair and co’s recent proposals) that anyone who reads certain books or web sites is a terrorist. If we’re going to do that, we might as well bypass any pretence of due process and start recruiting thought police.

        I have previously brought books from Paladin Press. In my case, they were about martial arts, but the same publisher has also supplied (for example) a technical manual for contract killers, information about how to create a false identity, information about various weapons and explosives, etc. Personally, I have little interest in such things, but having visited their web site, am I now assumed to be a terrorist because they presumably would be? Would I be assumed to be a terrorist if, instead of a white, British, agnostic man, I were a foreign-born Muslim living near Finsbury Park mosque?

        Perhaps the intelligence services should take an interest in someone in that position, at least for long enough to establish whether the various factors were coincidental or there appeared to be a real link to terrorist activities. We do rely on them to identify potential threats, after all. But that’s a far cry from granting executive privilege to deport someone who does so, which appears to be the bottom line in the government’s latest proposals.


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