Bad behaviour is endemic in our society.

 

I have been saying for a long time now that the language we use and the images we watch adversely affect the human brain. Our brains are structured by the world around us, the words, the images, the overt emotions people display when happy, sad, disturbed, angry and disenchanted. Critics dismiss the evidence because we live in a self-perpetuating and competitive system, which for reasons of capital growth, is unlikely to change. We copy others because it seems to be in vogue. No one wants to be different. We need to change. We can change individually. We can be mindful of our speech and our behaviour. If we are to create a better non-violent world then we must look at those behaviours we dismiss as normal, because acceptable they may be in this modern age, harmless they are not.

Modern Jewish Exodus.

 

                                                      The Exodus. Wikipedia.

 

On the Jewish calendar communities across the world are reading the  Book of Exodus and the story of their ancestors pathway out of Egypt and slavery.  It prompted the following thoughts.

Following World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jewish displaced persons set their sights on aliyah, (immigration to Israel) but the British government who had been in control of Palestine since 1917 were keen to maintain friendly relations with the Arab world and their valuable material resources, namely oil.   To this end, the Jews were refused to admittance to Palestine. The Jews were not unaccustomed to being stateless, they already had a long history of wandering and exclusion, but as the violence in Palestine between Jews, Arabs, and the British grew,  Britain decided to hand the problem of Jewish settlement over to the United Nations.[1]

At the end of World War II, the conflict over Palestine gained particular momentum. Jewish resistance increased dramatically and in order to keep the peace, Britain had more than 100,000 troops in the vicinity, but their efforts were in vain.  In 1942, the Jewish community in Palestine (the Yishuv) appealed to the United States for support of the Jewish state in Palestine. Despite the atrocities of the Holocaust, Britain still refused to change its policy of not allowing Jewish immigration into the region.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of Jews languished in displaced camps with little hope of any real future. The British interned more than 51,500 Jews who were desperately seeking a return to their homeland.

The British went to great lengths to keep Jews out of Palestine and forced them back onto prison ships and into camps.   There was constant outrage and violence against the British rule and as a consequence in 1947 the British lost even more support when they intercepted the Exodus, a ship loaded with 5,200 Jewish refugees sailing toward Palestine from Marseilles.  The British then launched two refugee ships back to Hamburg, Germany, where they forced the Jews into displaced persons facilities. The intervention scandal shook the British government, which is when they handed the problem to the United Nations hoping that they would recommend that the British retain control of the area, but the United Nations did not concede to British demands. Instead, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) recommended an Arab state and a Jewish state be brought into effect. (The recommendation was known as the Partition Plan).  The land was divided between Arabs and Jews and Jerusalem became an international city.

On November 29, 1947, by 133-13 majority, the United Nations voted that, beginning on May 15, 1948, if the Jews agreed, there would be two independent states in Palestine, and the British mandate would end. In 1948, (the year of my birth) the State of Israel was born.

[1]https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/israels-war-of-independence/ Retrieved 10th  January, 2019.

Russian Art.

  Aleksandr Nikolayevich Benois was born May 4 [April 21, old style], 1870, St. Petersburg and Russia died on Feb. 9, 1960. He was a Russian theatre art director, painter, and ballet librettist who with Léon Bakst and Sergey Diaghilev cofounded the influential magazine Mir iskusstva (“World of Art”), from which sprang the Diaghilev Ballets Russes.

Romantic Art.

‘The Soul of the Rose’ is a painting by John William Waterhouse

Created in 1908 The soul of the Rose is by Waterhouse who was one of the lesser known artists of the British Romantic Movement. The painting is based on a poem called ‘Come into the Garden, Maud’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Sir John Everett Millais’ painting of Ophelia
(1851–2) is very well known and one of the most popular works reproduced. The scene depicted is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act IV, Scene vii, in which Ophelia, driven out of her mind when her father is murdered by her lover Hamlet, falls into a stream and drowns. It was originally derived from Greek word ophelos meaning “help”. This name was probably created by the 15th-century poet Jacopo Sannazaro for a character in his poem ‘Arcadia’.

 

There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element; but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.  (Shakespeare).

 

Ophelia 1851-2 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01506.

Social Media.

How do I feel about social media?

Daily I open my account on Facebook and ask myself, why am I doing this?  Out of almost 5,000 friends how many are truly friends?  Most of these people are hardly known to me and if it were not for Facebook I probably would never refer to them as friends, or even acquaintances.

From another perspective, Facebook brings the news of what is happening in far off places, but how much accuracy does this news contain?  We have to trust our judgement on all accounts.

Facebook is also addictive and this is indicative of a chronic need in society to connect to a power that is greater than ourselves.  In the external world such powers are deemed unsafe and sometimes fraudulent.  Facebook appears to be safe ground because everything happens at a distance, but Facebook is also discursive and it can eat into the emotions if one allows it to penetrate the mind too much.  To this end, I ask myself, why have so many chosen to engage with Facebook.? The answer seems to be that in a time when we have lost touch with community we turn to virtual communities to fulfill those same social and emotional needs.

However, there is another question. Does Facebook truly fulfill those needs for connection?  Can Facebook replace real friends and family, or the beauty of nature.  The answer is no.  Too much time spent on screen can be damaging in a myriad of ways.  I open Face book once and day, but I choose nature for resilience, love and respect.

Riots in Melbourne. January 2019.

Riots in Melbourne. The Guardian 5th January, 2019.

It is concerning to see the rise of Fascism in Australia, but not surprising. Australia’s historical “All White Policy” attracted many European immigrants who wanted to continue living the life of white supremacists, which was being eroded at home.  When the colonies collapsed many postcolonial immigrants chose to settle in Britain and many British wanted to escape the influx of different races with alternative cultures and religions.  The escapees headed to the new frontiers bringing with them their draconian racism and hostile attitudes. Fortunately, not all Australians welcome the hostilities, but Australia’s laws protecting racial equality are weak.  Added to this, there are clear class distinctions between those who are motivated towards racial violence and those who oppose it, and as usual the overseers of the hostile actions are generally people with vested interests, politicians, businesses and the like.

Violence never solves anything, it simple serves to hide the issues behind the dis-enchantments, which run deep in the Australian psyche and which have their roots in a history of rank colonialism and its convict and working class oppression.

Book: The Invention of the Jewish People. Shlomo Sand.

This is a very interesting and controversial book. Written by an Israeli professor and originally published in Hebrew, it poses an alternative view to Israel’s claim that it should be an exclusive Jewish State, “in which non-Jews are culturally and political marginalized”. As a discourse  the work sheds a very different light on Jewish history, which both eases and heightens the many tensions Jews feel about their homeland.

Personally, I found this to be a compelling book, especially since Israel recently passed laws pertaining to who  can be an  Israeli  citizen and who cannot.  There are many Israelis who are not Jewish, should they be denied citizenship?  I think not.  At the same time many Jews wishing to live in Israel have to prove their Jewishness. Indeed, while the meaning of the word “Israel” distinctly refers to the Jewish people, this should not, in my view, be cause for exclusion from belonging to a state and having the same rights as other citizens if one’s ethnicity ( or indeed one’s spirituality  ) belongs there.   Nor should it exclude those Jews who have lived their faith, but who cannot prove their origins.   If someone identifies with a homeland then they should be free to live there and call it their land.

Historically, the Jews were destined to spread the belief in one supreme force in the universe that was greater than ourselves, (one God).  Over time, this idea has been eroded due to the many threats and insecurities Jewish people have experienced.  The desire to create a solely Jewish enclave is understandable, but it is not a solution to grounded fears and hostilities, which are neither spiritually or politically desirable.  I support the author’s view that the mythology of the Promised Land is neither historically accurate nor is it workable in a region that is in desperate need of a peaceful solution for bringing about a secure statehood for all who feel they belong in this wonderful “land of milk and honey“.

Marble Arch.

Marble Arch, London.

Some years ago, I had the good fortune of living in central London adjacent to Park Lane and very close to the grand and expansive tourist attraction of Hyde Park.  Every weekend I would take the bus to my art class, which was just a few miles away on the other side of Marble Arch.  The Arch always fascinated me, not so much for its historical value or its architecture, but because the British seemed to have a penchant for reproducing arches of every shape and size in their own environs, sometimes for weddings and sometimes just for ornamental value in suburban back gardens. I often wondered, what was it that was so appealing about arches?

Undoubtedly, Marble Arch stands-out for its grandeur and because it is a pathway for royal coronations and funerals, but how many people considered the deeper meanings associated with arches?

Marble Arch is only one of many arches around the world designed to celebrate the victories of war.  London’s Marble Arch depicts the glorious wins gained in the Napoleonic Wars.  It was an Arch of triumph and it still serves to uphold those same traditional values that suggest might is right and the warrior takes all.

Marble Arch was designed and partially built between 1752 –1835 by John Nash, who also designed much of the surrounding parklands and some sections of Buckingham Palace.  The Arch was commissioned under the auspices of George IV.  The intention was to expand Buckingham Palace and acknowledge England’s military might with a grand monument.

Following the King’s death Nash was sacked for spending too much money on the project and his position was filled by Edward Blore. Despite the change in management the Arch would still display the envisaged royal grandeur. It was clad in Ravaccione, a grey-white stone typical of Carrara marble, a material that would also lend credence to the name Marble Arch.  It was the first time any building in London have been covered in this elegant and costly material.  As it turned out the Arch proved unsatisfactory as the size of the Palace left the Arch looking small and insignificant.

Marble Arch was built as a tribute to military valour, but it also contains a grave mistake.  Either side of the Arch has a selection of winged victories accompanied by the two key commanders, but on the military side there is a portrait of Nelson (a navel leader) and on the navel side a portrait of Wellington (a military leader). Each of the ends are finished with laurel wreaths, a symbol of great achievement.

The Arch was completed in 1833 and gates were added 1837 in time for Queen Victoria’s coronation.  The gates were cast in bronze with a lion overseeing the slaying of the dragon by Saint George, the patron saint of England.

Blore’s Arch was unable to accommodate all the sculptures produced for the project so some ended up surrounding the central courtyard at Buckingham Palace, while others were given to William Wilkings for the construction of a new national gallery in London.

Marble Arch stood as the formal entry to Buckingham Palace for seventeen years before being relocated to Cumberland Gate where it served as an entry to Hyde Park.  Both the park and Arch featured in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Arch remained the entrance to Hyde Park for fifty years until in 1908 a new road system was constructed through the park south of the Arch which separated it from the parklands.  In the 1960s the roads were further enlarged completely cutting off the Arch and leaving it isolated amidst London’s busy traffic and intersections.  It still remained a tourist attraction especially on royal occasions.  Queen Elizabeth II would pass under the Arch on her way to her coronation in 1953.  In 1970 the Arch was Grade 1 listed which protected it from further disruption.

Everyone British subject would probably know of Marble Arch, but not of many would know its history despite the decorative panels indicating the Marble Arch story.  They were designed by Richard Westmacott.  On one panel there are three female figures, one wearing Britannia’s helmet, another carrying an Irish harp and the third holding the shield of Saint Andrew.  In another panel there is Peace, holding the trophies of war. Peace is standing of a pile of shields and bearing an olive branch, above are the three victories with laurel leaves.

On the south side, the panels were created by E. Baily, best known for his stature of Nelson in Trafalgar Square. There are two figures in Baily’s panels Virtue and Valour designed to symbolize strength.

I grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War when the young people of my generation would call virtue and valour into question. Many would come to the realization that wars were created by the rich and fought by the poor and in the 1960s another war was on the horizon, the Cold War; a nuclear war that was predicted to end all wars.    Where would the inner City of London find the space for more warrior arches?

I left London and settled in Australia on a beautiful property with a wonderful garden and views across acres of green fields to the hills beyond.  I am an avid gardener and low and behold, I have found myself unconsciously creating garden arches, albeit to maintain and control my roses. I have been forced to admit that I have inherited a penchant for arches.  I may not have a victory from foreign wars, but I do have victory over my prolific blooms when the spring rains sends them marauding across my pathways.

 

Sources.

  1. Bowdle and Steven P. Brindle’s English Heritage guidebook, Wellington Arch, Marble Arch and Six Great War Memorials (2015). www.english-heritage.org.uk and https://marble-arch.london/marble-arch-story/ Retrieved 16th Dec. 2018.

 

 

Soft Plastics.

Soft plastics cause a lot of damage to wildlife. Up  until recently it has been impossible to put soft plastics into the recycle bin with hard plastics and they have had to go into the landfil. Now Woolworths has a soft plastic recycle bin and the plastics are converted into items like park benches and paving. I am committed to reclying and I am delighted to be able to put my soft plastics to good use. What is more, they are light weight to carry and no trouble to  take to the store, unlike their bigger counterparts.  HELP SAVE THE PLANET.