Ethiopia, burning paradise

Do not forget Ethiopia. It is not the land of eternal suffering as popular imagination would have it, or it need not be. It is an ancient culture in a land of wonders, ruined by past wars but which was striding towards prosperity, until a new civil war began.

I wrote before about the vital work being carried out to heal Tigray after the Communists ravaged its land and turned fields into desert. Tigray was beginning to regain its old status as a leading province of the nation, but it is Tigray which war has struck.

The news is infrequent. It is not that nothing is happening, but that reporters are not interested in far countries that seem doomed to suffer every misfortune, and so are their audiences for the most part. We cannot write Ethiopia’s story for it though. It is not just a cliché, a charity case, a one-line thumbnail of a country. It is a large and complex nation that had cities and mighty monarchs when Britons lived in dark, Bronze Age huts.

The war is a cruel one. Atrocities have been commonplace, massacres, rapes, crop-burning and village-burning. It scarcely bears thinking about and no wonder we turn away. This is not a moral reflection on either side, as any ill-disciplined army commits atrocities (just whisper ‘Badajoz’ before you leap to judgment): it is a reflection of the immorality of war in general, and of civil war in particular.

Hobbes asserted that the sovereign power must be one, or the state will fall into discord and war and that is exactly what happened here: two authorities contending over who should be master. Civil discord commonly breaks out over who governs and how, but:

the estate of Man can never be without some incommodity or other; and that the greatest, that in any forme of Government can possibly happen to the people in generall, is scarce sensible, in respect of the miseries, and horrible calamities, that accompany a Civill Warre; or that dissolute condition of masterlesse men, without subjection to Lawes, and a coercive Power to tye their hands from rapine, and revenge

The Tigrayans have been at the heart of Ethiopia’s being every since there was a united Ethiopian state, and many times in its history they were the dominant, ruling sub-nation. When Communist rule tottered, it was Tigrayans, in Eritrea and the wider Tigrayan regions, who rose and drove them from the capital, so one might detect in the rebellion a sense of wanting to gain that which their arms won, and which people of their name enjoyed centuries before.

However, rebellion and war are cruel and the suffering far exceeds any imagined gain. The weeping mothers were despoiled by soldier, not by one side or the other, but soldiers, whatever their uniform.

Ethiopia deserves peace. Let us hope there are prayers enough to bring it.

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Forgetting Tank Man

The year of the liberation of millions in Europe, 1989, was also the year millions were freshly enslaved in China. Tiananmen Square in Peking saw protests mirroring those which were opening up half a world away, but in China they were crushed, cruelly. The echo of the shots is still heard today.

Yesterday Bing’s search engine ‘lost ‘ Tank Man, the iconic image. The reason for that happening we can guess at an they will not easily admit it. It affects us today. Tank Man is an enduring symbol of something about China of which we need to keep reminding ourselves.

Thousands were slaughtered in the city. China began like Europe that year, reaching to breathe free, but as Europe stumbled into the light, China fell into deeper darkness. To some that tells that the Chinese people are radically different, unsuited to freedom. Those with a better appreciation of Chinese culture recognise the stereotype but know it to be untrue.

The end was cruel, but the events which led there disprove a common idea about Chinese people: they are not automata; they can yearn to breathe free like any others. In 1989, Chinese men stood in the street demanding freedom exactly as others did in Central Europe. Tanks rolled in to crush them, and that tells you about their government, but to learn something of the people, watch the man who stood in front of them, with some faith that the men inside were men like himself, with a heart for freedom that could overcome the orders of a tyrant. Would that they had resisted as he did, as the soldiers in Eastern Europe resisted the same demands.

There is no doubt that China is a world apart, with an ancient culture that need not look to the West for lessons. Men are men though, and when Hobbes observed the motivations and actions of men in creating society and a common-wealth, he could write with equal justice of the Chinese as of the Britons.

So then we come to the disappearance of Tank Man. It is an image which is a threat to the Chinese Communist Party: it shows that bowed submission is not inevitable, that a Chinese man can stand up against authority. As such it is suppressed in Mainland China. In a democratic country, images however harmful to the standing of the government are freely circulated, and so accepted it this that it seems ridiculous that I even have to write that down.

It is a most pointed reminder because it happened in 1989, and in that same year communist parties collapsed across Eastern Europe, and in Algeria and Mongolia, the latter on China’s very borders. The Chinese Communist Party may no longer be communist, but it is a fascist tyranny feeling its fragility. There may be genuine belief that China cannot survive without the firm hand keeping it from the murderous turmoil which has regularly engulfed the Middle Kingdom in all past ages. It must be suppressed.

Bing called the disappearance a human error. I doubt that. It would take deliberate programming to exclude that term from a search engine algorithm. Neither though do I think that it was a conscious decision by the company. Any large technology company has a wide range of employees of all backgrounds, and it is no stretch to imagine that among them could be one or more who is an agent, paid or voluntary, of the Peking government, and who would inveigle himself into a position where he could control content. There is precedent for it: ‘social justice warriors’ working in publishing or in Internet companies ensure they are in a position to control output.

The challenge for the West is that this interference crosses borders: the Bing obliteration of Tank Man was effected not in a dictatorship but in America. That power invading our countries is a threat we have not faced in peacetime before.

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America loses its Virgin Islands

The United States Virgin Islands are to be sold, after 104 years, to pay for the Biden COVID relief package. Joe Biden conceded that it was a wrench but they were offered hard cash, and that is hard to come by these days.

A spokesman for the State Department acknowledged the sale, saying that no one had wanted to keep the islands – they were a drain on the US Treasury for no return and there are plenty of better beach resorts along the Gulf Coast anyhow.

The Virgin Islands were bought from Denmark in 1917 to prevent the Germans getting hold of them during the Great War, amid fears that the Kaiser would erect giant sausage factories within reach of the American mainland and assault American nostrils with the smell of industrial cabbage pickling vats. The Americans only intended to hold the islands until the war was over and they could be flogged back to the British Empire, but they got forgotten during a drinking bout at Versailles.

In the meantime, the neighbouring British Virgin Islands have become one of the most successful territories in the world, while the American islands have withered. Various attempts to dump them have failed: at the last vote, most of the electorate stayed on the beach collecting welfare cheques.

The State Department were unable to say who had bought the islands: they thought it was the British government, which is what they wanted, but thinking back on that ‘phone call they were not sure any more. The man on the ‘phone was talking gibberish so they assumed it was Boris Johnson, but it might have been some other man called Boris. It could have been one of the corporations over in the BVI, but that’s fine.

Joe Biden said of the deal “This is an opportunity for America to go forward in its main goals, to get rid of past mistakes, and, well anyway, I, erm..”

The US Treasury expressed concern that the price has been paid in US dollars, as those will be practically worthless in a couple of years when the COVID relief package has fed through and hyper-inflation cuts the price of a dollar to a cent.

Putin: we’re coming for you

You will not escape our scrutiny. we have our eyes on Russia no less than does the Skibbereen Eagle itself. Your cold brutality opposes every British value, which are the only values any decent man or woman should have. the dignity of every individual, the rule of law making freedom an everyday instinct and reality. We will not leave you a free pass nor let your practices become the way we oppose the destruction of society.

Western society is being destroyed: we see how it is going and from whom, just as you do, and we oppose it just as you do, but you are not us and we will not swap a woke tyranny for a Putin one.

Its a powerful world stage for you: I do not know if you influenced last year’s election in America, but your patsy got into the White House anyway; there has not been a weaker more submissive, pointless president since Medvedev. You may want to use this situation to impose yourself more strongly upon the world, but you have to get through us first.

Look us in the eye, Vladimir Vladimirovich. What do you have? You may have a large (or largely drunken) army, you may have agents and useful idiots everywhere, absolute control over a country 5,000 miles long, some of it even inhabited, guns, bombs and novichok – but we have keyboards, and we’re not afraid to use them.

We are British, something you can never be, so be jealous, and afraid.

Here on this site we are united: we have you, Putin, in our sights and will pursue you relentlessly. (Unless you’ve got a job going that pays well – preferably working from home – will learn basic Russian if required – all reasonable offers considered.)

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Eire applies to be America’s 51st State

“In retrospect, it was an easy decision” said the Taoiseach yesterday: “It makes sense for Ireland to join the United States of America”.

Joining the United States, he explained, is the best hope for Ireland’s prosperity. Ireland has more trade with the United States than with any other country except Britain; Americans are keen to be seen as Irish; and the two countries have provided each other with a great deal over the ages – America received labourers, and Ireland received the potato blight fungus. “With the EU, we’d tied our donkey to the wrong post.”

Irish commentators overwhelmingly agreed, observing that the Ireland only joined the European Community in the 1970s because Britain did, and while it was great for a while, the fascination has gone, like any other 1970s makeover.

Richard O’Shea, a senior government adviser, said the move would go forward as soon as possible. The Europeans had used Erin and cast here aside; “It was all very lovey-dovey when they wanted us to stiff the Brits in the negotiation, but now they are not returning our calls, they are ignoring us and humiliating us in front of our friends and neighbours. We thought we were getting cash in had from Brussels, but we find they have gone off with our fish, which is several times more than we ever received. We thought EU loved us, but they were only after cheques.

“The Europeans don’t understand us and their culture is alien. Ireland cannot stand alone: we need to join with another English-speaking country that can be a major trading partner and protector, and we couldn’t think of one except America.”

Joe Biden has often expressed his Irish ancestry. While has has not commented on the Irish government’s approach, he did express deep concern about the number of Republicans in Ireland: the Irish government was quick to reassure him that there is no connection between Irish Republicans and the GOP, and in fact the only similarity is a tendency to carry guns.

Timing for the move is still uncertain but it looks like it’s Irexit for now & howdy partner.