Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: russia

The Rivers that should flow through us all

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.

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Oh, those Russians…

Summer holidays are about the sun, the sea, getting away from it all or, in the case of Russians, getting away with it. This year I have spent two weeks with my family in the hot African sun, surrounded by Russians both big and small, but very Russian. The following became quite clear from being with them, closely watching them and talking with them.

1. They are locked into the 1980s like a Hazel Dean Greatest Hits collection. (There would be only five songs on that album and if you can name two you win a prize.)

2. They really can drink a lot.

3. They like to take pictures and pose in those pictures, a lot. The sort of poses that would grace the catalogues of the very companies that would sell you the clothes you used to buy in the 1980s.

4. They have money. A lot of money.

The Russians I shared the sun with were not oligarchs who were handed a state-run monopolies by a pissed president to do with what they willed. These are Russians who work for these oligarchs. They are middle class Russians mainly and they are happy, not just because they were on holiday.

When you probed a little deeper, they were happy because they love and are proud of their country and their leader, one V Putin.

The world, geopolitics and the media love a bogie man. Nothing sells a news bulletin or a newspaper more than a bad guy to point at and say ‘it’s his fault’, or ‘her fault’ for that matter. Think of the names that have been used for that very purpose over the last few years; Saddam Hussein, Col Gaddafi, Mohammed Morsi, Jimmy Saville, Sharon Mathews, Maxine Carr, Angela Merkel. The media love the binary world of the old Hollywood Western where the good guys wear the white hats and support their gun slinger against the black hats and their gun slinger.

Vladimir Putin has a very big black hat. He would not be out-of-place in a hollowed out volcano lair, sitting in a high back, black swivel chair. You can picture Putin stroking a white cat while surrounded by Ninjas in orange boiler suits turning nobs and flicking switches, tapping on computers and watching security screens. But it’s not as simple as this Bond image and the media in general is doing a disservice for making it so, much like the coverage of Gaza and the continuing ripples and waves of Sykes-Picot a century on from the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Take Crimea. Putin has. Bad joke. But Crimea is more Russian that Ukrainian, indeed if you look at the history of the region Crimea is more Russian than Moscow. Is it wrong to cede to the will of the people and take control of what actually wants to be yours? Putin did not seek a war, conflicts or even a spat with the west, but it has done him no harm. Quite the contrary. Putin needs us to be his black hats and we need him and his people to be ours. Putin also needs the west to be strong too in turn make him look and be stronger and he needs the West, especially the EU to buy Russian gas, oil, coal, wheat.

History is replete with lines drawn on a map as a result of war, dividing lands and people. The effects of this from the First World War are still being felt today thanks to the afore-mentioned Sykes-Picot plan for the Middle East.

Putin is a leader, not a manager and the world needs leaders as it does have too many managers. Look at Barrack Obama. The world thought they were getting a leader but they got a manager. Margret Thatcher was a leader, John Major was a manager. Tony Blair was a leader, Gordon Brown was an unmitigated disaster. The jury is out on David Cameron but I think we all know what Ed Miliband will be, and so do his party.

So what has this all go to do with my holiday in the company of Russians? Well they are happy, they have a sense of nation and purpose and, even with their economy going into recession, they are bound together and even if they struggle they will struggle together and be stronger for it. History should teach us that a strong leader, who knows the people and their history needs watching very closely. That leader also needs our respect, our admiration and our caution.

One last thing. Can you think of any other flag of the world that could be turned into a bikini without it causing offence? Well the Union flag and the Stars and Stripes makes an excellent two piece swim wear ensemble. Maybe the flag of Saudi Arabia could be next? Maybe not.

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