The Rivers that should flow through us all

by John Darvall

This week Joan Rivers died. At 81 she had made generations laugh and the consensus is that she always spoke her mind, said what she felt and she has been widely praised for it. Her last book was Mad Diva and her previous book I Hate Everyone Starting With Me gives you a real insight into her world, just by the titles. Celebrities, Gaza, Jews, Presidents, her husband’s suicide all became her material and through the laughter she made us think about what they are, what we stand for and what they should be. Her comedy was honest, challenging comedy and it is style of comedy that allows us to laugh and come to terms with so many things, especially at their darkest.

We should really value someone who says what they feel and we should mourn their passing. The dichotomy is that we all claim to value free speech yet condemn anyone who dares to step off the safe speaking path for fear of offending anyone. Maybe we should also be mourning the rise of a world where we can’t say what we feel or express our opinion, for fear of upsetting someone as it or we might be considered an ‘ist’ by anyone in earshot. I have written about this and about ‘ists’ in an earlier blog but one thing we could all learn from Joan Rivers is that speaking our mind and letting others know what were are really thinking is not a bad thing, and those who don’t like it are the ones with a problem, not you. Any ‘ist’ be they racist, feminist, fundamentalist… the list of ‘ists’ goes on … who does not listen and believes they are right and you are wrong, they are dangerous. The one thing we can all know is that we don’t all know.

Maybe we could apply a Joan Rivers freedom of free speech test to our world leaders or managers (see earlier blog) who were recently sent to Newport in Wales to talk and come up with the odd plan or two. Quite why 60 world leaders were being punished by being sent to Newport is unknown but one thing is for certain that if you think Newport has problems, they are nothing compared to our world at the moment. Leaders who speak freely could say a lot to those who seem hell-bent on our destruction. They don’t and it was yet another lost opportunity. Joan Rivers would have told Islamic State, Putin and NATO what she thought and that may have made NATO bounce into actual action, or at the very least laugh and think.

NATO was set up in 1949 as an American lead answer to the perceived Soviet threat after the Second World War. How quickly second world war allies become enemies and, as President al-Assad of Syria may find very soon, the reverse can happen too. From the formation of NATO to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world broadly knew what to do. It was like a school playground with two adversaries, one on the east side the other on the one west side of the playground, looking at each other with a ‘come and have a go if you think your hard enough’ attitude. There may have been a bit of shuffling of feet and even the odd flexing of muscles but each side understood the other and each knew what could happen if they did actually fight, so they didn’t.

Communism fails, the Soviet Union breaks up and the Berlin Wall falls. NATO struggles with what to do next. And so does Russia. Twenty-five years on the purpose is back on both sides and, again, each side knows the rules. It may be scary but at least it is territory they and we know. Threats, cease-fires, negotiations, claim and counter-claim but the East versus West game is back on in the global playground.

Islamic State is a totally different situation. There are no rules and they don’t have any rules apart from their own warped view of the Koran. These Muslim extremists or fundamentalists are to Islam what the Klu Klux Klan is to Christianity. They now have their caliphate incorporating large parts of Syria and Iraq so what next? They seem bent on widening their expansion and influence while having no regard to or for anyone who is NOT them. Islamic State and its ‘success’ must be a real kick in the prophets for Al Qaeda. So how do you deal with I S? Simply, you don’t. Bombing them acts as their recruiting sergeant and the West must stay out. It is for Syria and Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to sort out this mess. It is a Muslim and tribal issue and the West must stay out, including aid workers and journalists. Turn off the cameras, turn off the lights and let them all get on with it and they can let us know when it’s sorted.

The one thing that would help us all in the East and West and Middle East would be that the leaders of those countries, together with ALL Muslim leaders in Britain, condemn with out conditions or ambiguity Islamic State. The world needs to hear from Muslims that Islamic State is ‘NOT in my name’, that Muslims do not support I S and their intentions. Only then can we all start to face those who are a real threat and not treat those who may look like a threat as one.