Friday, 23 December 2011

'Christmas' by John Betjeman

This is a wonderful poem but I have only reproduced the last three stanzas. Please read on and you will see why.

'And is it true? and is it true?

The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?


And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.'



The plight of the children in Gaza who suffer everyday and witness death and destruction is something that I want people to remember this Christmas. Below is a poem that I wrote for a production called 'Letters to Gaza' run by The Calders Bookshop in London to remember the hardship of Palestinians. I can never know what it is like to be a child in Gaza or Israel so I do not take sides. I have previously blogged about Jewish children too.

http://childrenofgazafund.org/

Children of Gaza
It’s just the luck of birth,
That keeps us at separate ends of the Earth,
That doesn’t mean I forget you,
I won’t just sit and stew,
I will try and fight for you,
Try not to feel too blue,
Whatever happened to your life?
It’s all just suffering and strife,
The poor children of Gaza.

Why at such a young age,
Are you in a cage?
Always hiding,
Your confidence is sliding,
Surrounded by sadness,
Chaos and madness,
It really isn’t your fault,
That all your happiness was locked up in a vault,
The poor children of Gaza.

Where is the democracy?
You are shot at with accuracy,
You stand no chance,
When the soldiers are in a trance,
A trance to kill,
There’s nothing for you to leave in a will,
Many people have died,
You have cried,
The poor children of Gaza.

You don’t want the blockade,
Or the grenades,
It’s wrong you have to play with bullets,
Which rain down like comets,
Your siblings are dead,
You don’t like to think how much they bled,
You still have nightmares,
Where no one ever dares,
To save you from the soldiers,
The poor children of Gaza.

There’s still a bit of hope,
That one day there’ll be a rope,
That’ll pull you out of all this,
Wouldn’t that be bliss?
Your friends are always there,
Or someone who cares,
But there’s death lurking,
Soldiers are working,
At least you are still alive,
One day happiness will arrive,
For the poor children of Gaza.



Me reading my poem at the Gaza Evening November 2011
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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Libdemchild with Rev Jesse Jackson at Occupy St.Paul's

I was asked to speak at Occupy LSX (St.Paul's) today with THE Rev Jesse Jackson. It was an amazing honour to be in the company of such an important and historical figure. It was also a great privilege to have been asked by the Occupy Movement to speak. This is my speech.

Good afternoon Occupy, It’s an honour, a privilege to be here today. This is one of my favourite places in the world. I am here today to contribute to my future through debate and an exchange of ideas.

I want to live in a country where the level of inequality is minute and where children are able to get the best education no matter which school they go to in what area. No doubt we will always have people who earn more than others because people's abilities differ but I do want to live in a country where children can afford to eat at home, have heating and have a childhood. Poverty affects childhood well being. Children from poor families have more problems such as mental health, school achievements, alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancies.


Youth unemployment is now at 1.027 million. I have reason to worry about our young and I am grateful to Occupy for providing a space for me to talk about these things. To me, a child, capitalism is scary. It presents an illusion of how if you work you will have a decent standard of living. This isn't the case. People have lost jobs through no fault of their own. I am struggling to understand what forces are at play that allows 1% to keep accumulating wealth while there are children in this country who don't have breakfast before school because their parents can't afford it.

We have had free market economics for 30 years and it has resulted in a lobsided world. The Occupy Movement is right to ask for our economic system to be looked at. Capitalism was meant to provide for all. It’s not. When billionaires like Warren Buffet says that he wants to pay more tax and uses words like ‘it’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifices then it really is time.

What is the future for us the young people who form part of the 99%? Bleak if things carry on the way they are. The Occupy movement has been phenomenal in the way it has made the debate on inequality a part of everyday life now. When the banks first failed it was seen as an economic problem, nobody really could predict the way it would affect us all. Then it happened but people weren't able to put a name to it. The Occupy movement have given us a language to describe what we are living. Inequality.

I don’t understand the hypocrisy of society. While children are being abused, killed and neglected in their own house unnoticed by society or social services the city of London’s director of community and children’s services provided a witness statement to say that children were at Occupy spending time with drug addicts.

What really makes me so angry is that while much is made about this camp being a health and safety hazard children are living in unsafe housing, overcrowded homes with leaking roofs and damp on the walls.

People at Occupy are insulted for supposedly not having jobs. Yet, strikes and marches are organised demanding jobs for people. So if you are at Occupy you somehow can go out and magically get a job but if you don’t belong to Occupy then you are not to blame for being unemployed?

Professor Richard Layard, the professor on Happiness, said ‘We do not need a society based on Darwinian competition between individuals. Beyond subsistence, the best experience any society can provide is the feeling that other people are on your side. That is the kind of capitalism we want.'

Occupy is stirring intelligent debate about social justice, economics, race, feminism and education. These are building blocks for sustainable living. Anyone who criticises Occupy misses the real picture. It’s not about the tents, silly. It’s about redistribution. Redistribution of wealth, opportunities and ideas.

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