The Power Of The Written Word

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‘Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?

– Walt Whitman ‘Leaves of Grass’

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In China, Zhu Yufu imprisoned for “inciting subversion of state power”, a court in eastern China sentenced him to seven years in jail for writing a poem urging people to support freedom. The court ruled that Zhu Yufu’s poem It’s Time, sent using the Skype online chat service, deserved stern punishment, according to his son.

“Sentencing veteran activist Zhu Yufu to seven years for writing a poem is further evidence of the Chinese government’s continuing repression of anyone who is perceived to directly or indirectly criticize its policies,” said Sarah Schafer, Amnesty International’s China researcher.

“These harsh measures are a sign that the Chinese leadership must be afraid of losing its grip on power. Why else would it sentence someone to seven years in prison for writing a poem?”

Beautiful Saudi Arabian Flag New HD WallpaperIn Saudi Arabia, Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh is in a Saudi prison, allegedly for spreading atheism – and having long hair. The poet, raised in Saudi Arabia, was arrested five months ago, when a reader submitted a complaint against him saying that his poems expressed ideas of atheism.

IamaSriLankanIn Sri Lanka, a Tamil poet and Norwegian citizen Shanmugampillai Jayapalan arrested by the Terrorist Investigative Division in November 2013, was deported by Sri Lankan immigration, for disrupting the ethnic harmony of Sri Lanka, the Government Information Department says.

Qatari man holds the national flag during a celebration in DohaIn Qatar, A court has upheld a 15-year prison sentence given to a poet found guilty of inciting people to overthrow the government and insulting the emir. Mohammed al-Ajami’s lawyer, Najib al-Nuami, said the Court of Cassation’s ruling had been “political”. His only remaining option was to appeal to the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, for clemency, Mr Nuami added.

Mr Ajami was originally jailed for life last year but the sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal in February. Human rights group have criticised his conviction as a betrayal of free speech. They said his original trial was marred by irregularities, with court sessions held in secret. The case against Mr Ajami was said to have been based on a poem he wrote in 2010 which criticised the former emir, Sheikh Hamad Al Thani. But activists believe the authorities were punishing him for a 2011 poem he wrote about authoritarian rule in the region.

In the poem Tunisian Jasmine, a private recitation of which was uploaded to the internet in January 2011, Mr Ajami expressed his support for the uprising in the North African state, saying: “We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite.”

He also denounced “all Arab governments” as “indiscriminate thieves”. The father of four, also known as Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb, has said the poems were not meant to be offensive or seditious. Mr Nuami, a former justice minister, argued at the Court of Cassation that the maximum sentence Mr Ajami should have received was five years.

He described Monday’s ruling as “a political and not a judicial decision”.

“I hope the emir will grant him an amnesty,” he told the AFP news agency (BBC 2013).

To conclude, with the words of the Italian writer and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi;

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High-Rise

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Anyone who has watched the film Elysium (starring Matt Damon & Jodie Foster), can appreciate the logic of gated communities; peaceful, secure, enclaves cut off from the community at large via electric gate and intercom systems manned by security guards, anybody who lives within that cloistered paradise is there because they can afford to be there.

And If you happen to be one of the many unfortunates peering in through the gates? Get yourself off benefits and into a bloody job! Then you too can enjoy the many advantages of living amongst honest, honourable, law abiding folk. Except what I notice most about the kind of people who like living in exclusive, affluence, surrounded by electric boundaries is that they tend to be distinctive individualists, with equally individualistic views very few of which, appear to encompass helping the vulnerable within society at large. Unless of course, like the poor, their homes are drenched and ruined by floods with the roads rendered impassable even to a Land-Rover, at times like that money it seems is no object.

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Reflecting on Danny Boyle’s film classic ’28 Days Later’ you know, that film in which a comatose patient awakens to find the hospital empty, collects several other survivors, and after running for the hills (for forty minutes), eventually settles down on that gated-community to beat all gated-communities (an island). I was struck by the eagerness of  the Conservative party to bring ’28 Days Later’ one step closer to reality. Witness the massive drop in police numbers since they have come to power. Why in Harrow alone police numbers have been cut by 27% in the last four years. Whilst across London 3,000 police officers’ jobs have been axed.

Lest we forget why our police are needed, in September 2013, a young ‘Harrovian’ was reported to have, on his crazed wanderings, beaten up his next-door-neighbour (for no conceivable or rational reason), have visited his parents so he could assault his 70 year old dad and then to have idled down to the local high street where he tossed beer and abuse over three young muslim women. Eventually, he was arrested, eventually…meanwhile four benefit fraudsters were promptly arrested in a joint operation between Harrow Council and the DWP. Equally as prompt to comment Harrow Council leader, Susan Hall, reminded us all that benefit fraud is not ‘victimless, it is a kin to stealing from one’s neighbours’ thank you Suzy.

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And so to that estimable movie (or not) ‘Creep’ where our heroine (Franka Potente) gets on a tube train, falls asleep and finds herself locked up for the night, not an open ticket-office in sight. This bodes ill for Franka since she is being stalked by the mutant creation of a mad scientist. This week’s tube strikes is proof positive, that mad scientists are about as exclusive as gated communities, when it comes to ill thought out ideology. Do we need ticket-offices? Not according to Boris Johnson, times have moved on. Funny that, because all it took to change his mind (so it would seem) was a forty eight hour tube strike, called by workers who, whilst afraid to lose the means by which they pay their bills, went on strike, because quite frankly the Mayor had given them no other alternative. More power to Bob Crow and the RMT for calling their workers out and forcing the Mayor to rethink his decision to close all of London’s ticket-offices.