Not on my street

Twice yesterday I was hit by how incredibly comfortable my life is.

The first time was when I watched one of those ‘one second a day’ videos.  This one is different to any I have seen before though.  It shows the devastating impact the encroaching evil of war has on a little girl.  The unique perspective on the whole thing is that the little girl is British and war has come to the streets of Britain.  I think it would have spread like wildfire on social media if it wasn’t for just how terrible the reality is – there are little girls like our daughters, sisters, nieces, granddaughters, goddaughters, neighbours etc. who are caught up in the brutality of war and, for the vast majority of us, we probably don’t really care because they’re on a different continent and maybe because they have a different colour skin.

The second time was when I turned out the light last night after reading some more of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.  I’d just read a section that describes the utter mundane, terrifying, lonely and dehumanising existence of someone living on a mental health ward.  As I lay there in the dark I realised there were thousands of people  all over the country experiencing that terrible existence right now – stigmatised by society, maybe abandoned by family and friends, controlled by medication, institutionalised.  Lying in the dark.  And again, we don’t truly care that much because it is such an unreality to us.  There will be someone living with the terror and hopelessness of mental illness probably within 50metres of where you live, yet we don’t see it, and it passes us by.

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Olympic Wet Blanket

I’m going to be a real killjoy and a wet blanket.  But it’s all for a good cause – it’s prevent us Brits feeling even more superior than we already feel!

Led by the BBC, we’re all getting ever so excited about the possibility of our greatest ever Winter Olympic medal haul.  If one of the speed skaters grabs a medal tomorrow that will make 5 medals in total, more than we have ever won before.

However, have you noticed all the new events that we get in the Winter Olympics these days – curling, skeleton bob, snowboarding, moguls, ski cross and quite a few more.  There are almost 6 times as many medals available now than there were in the inaugural games of 1924.  If you take the new events out of the equation then our medal tally would be a big fat zero.

There is a fascinating article for stats geeks on Business Week that explores the inflation of medals at the Winter Olympics.

Nevertheless, well done to the curlers, the Lizzy Yarnold and the snowboarding lass that got the commentators a bit over excited.

Finally, just as a point of interest did you know that the following have all made an appearance as a Winter Olympics demonstration sport but have never made it onto the full programme:  Snowshoeing, Military Patrol, Bandy, Synchronised Ice Skating, Ski Ballet, Skijoring and last, but not least – Dog Sled Racing!

Skijoring never made it as a full Olympic sport!

How would we like it?

Maybe this picture gives a tiny clue as to why the Palestinian people feel a tad oppressed.

I suggest the only way forward is to give half of Britain to the Palestinian people to set-up their own homeland, and then over the next 50 years allow them to reduce native British occupied land to a few towns in Yorkshire and the Blackpool seafront, and cut us off from the rest of the world.

How would we like it?

Great Britain – a nation with influence

95 years ago today the British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, made the following declaration:

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

This declaration was used to pave the way toward the beginning of the state of Israel.  I’d like to make one point:

We in Britain should not underestimate our responsibility for the current situation in Palestine and Israel.  If it was not for Britain then the cycle of oppression and terrorism may not have even started.  We hold ourselves up as beacons of liberty yet fail to take responsibility for world changing decisions we have made that lead to hundreds of thousands being displaced and killed.

Western Justice

In 2002 a 15 year old boy was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing a soldier of an occupying army.

Today Omar Khadr has been repatriated to his native Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence which as been reduced to 8 years because of his guilty plea.  Since 2002 he has been locked away in Guantanamo for killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.  I think Guantanamo is evil at the best of times, but to inflict it on a 15 year old boy blows my mind.

In Britain this week we have been in uproar about a 30 year old teacher who eloped with a 15 year old pupil.  She has been manipulated to elope by an older man who took advantage.  Omar Khadr was manipulated to kill by a repressive regime who took advantage.  Did his age count for nothing in American justice?

I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what the West stands for once you dismantle the outer layers presented by governments and the media.  It just seems like there is a web of corruption and greed out there glossed over with fake fights for justice and democracy.

This summer Great Britain proved it was great at putting on an Olympics, great at performing in sport at the highest level and great at pulling together to have a good time.  These things are important but we should be wary of believing we’re better than everybody else and that our view of the world is purer than those from other nations.  I appreciate that Britain didn’t sentence a 15 year old boy to 40 years in prison but we are complicit in America’s ‘war on terror’ and therefore need to be aware what actions we are allied with.

Be proud of the good things in our nation, but don’t for a moment think we’re better than everyone else.

True Medal Count?

A few times during the Olympics our ever enthusiastic BBC TV and radio presenters commented that we were on top of the medals table when you consider the number of medals we won in proportion to the size of the country.  I noticed Hungary were doing well, and that New Zealand had a handful of medals, and I knew that their populations were significantly smaller than that from which Team GB sourced its talent from.  I couldn’t help myself, the statistics obsessed nerd within got the better of me and I did some number crunching and worked out how many golds and how many medals overall other countries would have won proportionally if they had the same population as the UK.

Number of Golds Won

1.   USA  –  46
2.   China  –  38
3.   GB  –  29
4.   Russia  –  24

Number of Golds Won Proportionally

1.   Grenada  –  593
2.   Bahamas  –  176
3.   Jamaica  –  92
11. GB  –  29
25. Russia  –  10
28. USA  –  9
48. China  –  2

Total Medals Won

1.   USA  –  104
2.   China  –  87
3.   Russia  –  84
4.   GB  –  65

Total Medals Won Proportionally 

1.   Grenada  –  593
2.   Jamaica  –  276
3.   Trinidad & Tobago  –  189
10. Montenegro  –  100
23. GB  –  65
33. Russia  –  37
49. USA  –  21
74. China  –  4

So, a lot of countries in reality did even better than the wonderful Team GB.  That’s not a bad thing, just nice to know that there must be a lot of very satisfied sports fans out there from other nations!  If you want to know how other countries fared let me know and I’ll happily divulge more numbers.

However, there were six countries with bigger populations than the UK who didn’t manage a single medal between them. They are Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam and Congo and together they have double the population of the United States.  I think this is sobering and should remind us that for a vast percentage of the world’s population there are not the resources to put into enjoying the Olympics.  As the celebrations die down we need to remember that there are things in this world that should take a higher priority than sport.