Thursday, 22 August 2013

Shit Happens

I've not been too busy today - that's a good thing - mostly, I needed a break and a catch up. However, on the downside - if I have too much time on my hands, I get distracted and let things wind me up.

It's been 6 years to the day since I bought this house, I'd only intended to be here 2 years, but that was before I apparently broke the economy and resigned myself to a middle age of negative equity, anxiety and uncertainty. I like this house, it's still not decorated and it has several insect infestations - including woodworm. Rodents occasionally, a leaking roof, a damp smell, and it's on the small side, but it could be worse - I could still be battling with my troglodyte neighbours in Liverpool, having my windows put in, and being called a paedophile in the local Tesco - at the time I would have quite happily moved into a cardboard box, as long as it was as far away as possible.

I think I preferred it when we didn't have the Internet and it was much harder to find things out. The news is constantly depressing. The Snowden / Miranda case defies rational explanation ( actually - yes, I can explain it - it's stinks ), the news from both Syria and Egypt continues to confound common sense, the social and political changes in Russia scare the shit out of me, and the results and fallout from the Manning trial depress me horribly.

I was pretty impressed that the actor/writer Wentworth miller refused to accept the invitation to a film festival in Russia because, as a 'Gay man' - he would find it impossible (his mother is Russian). There has been speculation about his sexuality for about 10 years - when I say 'speculation' - it's mostly been an open secret - only referred to by the sillier gay entertainment journalists and the Daily Mail. I did read one 'journalist' who felt that it was a desperate attempt to gain attention because he hadn't been 'in' anything recently - it can't possibly be that difficult to check up on IMDB that he's now a busy and successful screenwriter.

I was less impressed by the comments after an article by the technology journalist Mic Wright, who seems a balanced and sensible sort. It was essentially a fact based examination of the attitudes towards gay men and women in Russia and Qatar - where major global sporting events are no due, and a number of other countries where, basically - if they don't shoot you or beat you to a pulp - they hang you from the lamppost. If it helps you to focus, I'd say a full 30% of all the comments were moderated out, and this was in the Telegraph.... - I've not been that shocked by rampant homophobia and racism for some time. Personally, I'm against moderation - I think that what people are stupid enough to post should be left to damn them, but not everyone agrees with me. It also reminds us how far we have to go, and how low some people can sink.

That neatly takes us back to Manning. I've been more annoyed than usual by the BBC today, they reported his decision to pursue gender reassignment with some glee and comedy, as if they were doing the 'funny' bit at the end of the news. People wonder why I get so wound up about Manning. I get angry because of the unspeakable injustice. In truth - it should never have happened. He should never have been in a position to have access to documents that any right minded person would feel morally obliged to expose. If you have seen the infamous "insurgent bastards" video of a ranting US pilot rejoicing in the murder of innocent men, children and a press cameraman - you will understand that you can't just walk away and pretend it never happened. There is no point pretending to be the 'good guys' and take the moral high ground - if you are prepared to sink so low.

I just referred to Mmanning as 'he' - because I think it's appropriate to draw a line between the past and the future. I was annoyed by the titillation that greeted his decision to change sex, because if you had been following the trial - it would not have been news.

Bradley Manning was born premature and underweight, his mother was a depressive heavy drinker and took large amounts of prescription medication. He suffered from what's now called 'foetal alcohol syndrome' - even now he has the height and build of the average 10 year old American boy. His parents separated as a child and he was taken to Wales by his mother, where he spent several unhappy years as she continued to drink herself into oblivion - eventually moving back to be with his father and stepmother in his teens. It was not a happy family home, and he was thrown out by his stepmother - practically penniless and ended up living in his van working at menial jobs. Because he was good with computers he wanted an education, which was impossible without money, so he did what he thought was 'right' - a combination of patriotism that compensated for the void his family left, and the promise of a university education funded by the state - he joined the army. Eventually ending up in the Gulf States at a time when the forces were so depleted and demoralised that the enrolment standards were dropped below minimum. Criminal records, facial tattoos, mental instability, history of drink and drug convictions - Uncle Sam welcomed anyone. After a couple of years of bullying, physical abuse, mental breakdown and repeated requests to be discharged - he was still there, staring at a screen all day at horror after horror after horror. If you want to go deeper into the 'crime' - you'll find that the 'hacker' who helped him make his mind up to leak the files - was also the individual who reported him - nobody is really sure what he got in return. After that - and about a year in prison under conditions that the UN have already described as 'torture' and appalling physical and emotional abuse (remember - we are supposed to be the 'good guys') we find ourselves here - and Manning is a traitor - although I'm not so sure who it is that he's supposed to have betrayed, his country? - who are not exactly 'clean'. His Army?, who have treated him like an animal, his family?, lets not bother with that one, or himself? - it would have been really easy to have done nothing - I doubt I know anyone who would have taken this path, and he deserves some great credit for that. He should never have been in that position, he was physically, emotionally and phsycologically unfit, which had been recorded on his record, but the things he saw - should never have happened - never - but they did.

I don't know what will happen next, Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 3 times already and most experts will attest that he brought conflicts in the gulf to an early end and precipitated the so-called Arab Spring, saving many thousands of lives already. He has made it public that he should now be referred to as a she - something that comes as no surprise to his senior officers - he'd informed them long before he leaked the documents and should have been returned to home soil as a consequence. Everyone let him down, except himself, or - as I'll call him from now on herself.

Chelsea Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in Prison, I don't know what will happen to her - it's out of my control, like most things in life - that does not make it any less palatable for me. I'd like to think that getting all that off my chest has made me feel better. It hasn't. Before we had the Internet - I'd have about half an hour in the morning with the newspapers and a couple of hours on Sunday when I could get angry - now it's pretty much all the time. No wonder I grind my teeth.

1 comment:

Steerforth said...

It's sickening beyond words. Manning deserves nothing but compassion. One of the few decent things the current British government did was to save Gary McKinnon from the same fate.

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