Saturday, January 28, 2017

Video: "The banned 400-year-old Shakespearean speech being used for refugee rights today"

"Some six hundred years ago in medieval England, feverish xenophobia swept through the population as 64,000 foreigners, from wealthy Lombard bankers to Flemish laborers, arrived on English shores between 1330 and 1550 in search of better lives. 

Locals blamed them for taking their jobs and distorting their culture. Tensions reached a zenith on May 1, 1517, as riots broke out in London and a mob armed with stones, bricks, bats, boots and boiling water attacked the immigrants and looted their homes. Thomas More, then the city’s deputy sherif, tried to reason with the crowd.
This dark day in history, known as Evil May Day, was portrayed in a then-banned play called The Book of Sir Thomas More, believed to be written between 1596 and 1601. William Shakespeare and two other writers were called to edit the manuscript, with the Bard contributing the 147 lines of More’s emphatic pro-immigrant monologue.

 “Imagine that you see the wretched strangers / Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage / Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation.”  

The play was never performed in Shakespeare’s lifetime because the Queen’s censor, Edmund Tilney, thought it might incite riots during a time when England was once again besieged by another immigrant crisis with the arrival of French-speaking Protestant asylum seekers from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
More’s call for empathy, famously delivered by actor Ian Mckellan who played More on stage in 1964, has since become a clarion call for refugee advocates today.

“Thomas More’s speech to the mob is as relevant as ever,” said US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power in a Sept. 16 speech at the Lincoln Center Global Exchange to champion refugees. 

“The ‘wretched strangers’ have changed of course, from the Lombards targeted in 1517 in those riots to the Huguenot refugees in Shakespeare’s time and to the Syrians, Iraqis, South Sudanese, Eritreans and others fleeing repressive governments of our time,” explained Powers. She recruited Shakespearean actor Jay O. Sanders to perform the monologue in the middle of her speech.

The text begins with More’s response to the mob...

The Book of Sir Thomas More, Act 2, Scene 4

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too short of your great trespass As but to banish you, whither would you go? What country, by the nature of your error, Should give you harbour? go you to France or Flanders, To any German province, to Spain or Portugal, Nay, any where that not adheres to England,
Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper, That, breaking out in hideous violence, Would not afford you an abode on earth, Whet their detested knives against your throats, Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants Were not all appropriate to your comforts, But chartered unto them, what would you think To be thus used? this is the strangers case; And this your mountainish inhumanity."

"The handwritten manuscript, the only example of a script written in Shakespeare’s penmanship, is on view at London’s British Library."

From source here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Religious education on the decline in Catalonia"

"The subject of religion is attracting fewer pupils in Catalan schools, despite efforts by the PP party to bolster the subject in the Wert education reform.

According to figures from the Catalan education department, in the 2015/2016 school year, 159,311 pupils studied religion, fewer than the 182,687 who took the subject in 2010/2011. In secondary schools, only 30% of all pupils chose the subject (7% in public schools).

In Spain as a whole the trend has also been downward. Figures from the Conferencia Episcopal Española for 2015/2016 say 70% of primary school pupils and 55% of secondary school pupils studied the Catholic religion.

Given the decline, the PP government attempted to boost the subject in its Lomqe educational reform by putting the marks for religion on par with other subjects and getting rid of alternative citizenry classes.

Meanwhile, the Conferencia Episcopal Española took advantage of a government sympathetic to religion to suggest class prayers should be reinstated, something which caused outrage.

In Catalonia, former education minister, Irene Rigau, proposed compensating for “religious illiteracy” among young people by including the subject, culture and alternative ethical values to religion into the secondary curriculum for 2015/2016."

[Article by - Barcelona, Source: Catalonia Today.]

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"The dangers of the sell-off" - My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

["Grandpa Mark"]
  A new year has begun but not much has changed apart from the date on the calendar.

In Australia, that faraway land that has the reputation of a kind of paradise according to some people here in Catalonia, the national government is up to its usual dirty tricks. 

Someone working at the public's expense recently discovered a sixty six year-old grandfather named Mark Rogers who the government solicitor is threatening with legal action if he doesn't close down a website he runs.

His alleged crime? 

Not corruption, child-pornography or even defrauding bank customers. Rogers, volunteering his own time, dares to host “” in an attempt to keep the Australian health system in public hands. 

The ultra-conservative Turnbull government down-under has told “Grandpa Mark” that he has broken copyright law through 'misleading or deceptive' use of the Medicare “brand” logo.

The fact that Medicare exists not as a brand but as a taxpayer-funded organisation which is responsible for allocating resources to hospitals has been ignored by the Aussie media. 

What they have rightly pointed out though is that the government is falsely using the law to intimidate a critic of their policy of selling off Medicare to corporations with big profits from sickness as their sole motive. 

Rogers aim is simply to keep the universal health system for all and to publicise the myths that right-wingers in Australia are spreading about Medicare being supposedly 'unaffordable.'

Meanwhile back on this half of the globe, in a progressive move the Slovenian parliament has adopted a constitutional amendment that declares their country's abundant clean water supplies are 'a public good managed by the state' and 'not a market commodity.'

Strangely though, the same centre-left government is planning to employ private security firms to help “manage the flow of thousands of migrants and refugees” travelling through the country toward northern Europe.

If contracting out police work seems a reasonable idea, I would urge you to read British journalist Polly Toynbee's wonderful book about life for the low-paid (titled “Hard Work.”) She spent time in various jobs where, amongst many other shocking discoveries, she found that all across their National Health Service, private agencies were originally used to solve short term staffing but quickly became dependent on them.

The agencies were quick to realise this relationship of dependency so colluded to keep pushing up their fees without paying staff any more than sub-living wage rates. As a result, public service 'managers' were completely unable to manage their teams because they were all being directly employed by companies outside the system.

This has been a business arrangement that only benefitted the companies. And it has now been true for a decade and a half, leaving taxpayers as well as the government and these low-paid workers trapped without a trace of value for money - the exact thing that privatisation is supposed to be so good for.

[This article was was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, January 2017.]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017