My thoughts go out to the families of the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks in France (13/11/15). Such a cowardly and brutal attack on innocent civilians is anathema to anyone of any religion and anyone who does not require a faith. Furthermore, though the atrocity was no doubt designed to instil hatred as well as fear, it should not be allowed to act as an excuse for reprisal against local minority communities or refugees fleeing for their lives from conflict zones around the world; ignorant headlines in The Mail on Sunday only fan the flames of hatred and make it harder than it already is to break the cycle. Neither should this crime be seen as a green light for the mass surveillance that comes hand-in-hand with the patronising phrase “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.”
I believe that the colonial past of a number of European nations lies at the core of the rise of Daesh; vested interests that sequestered the resources of the countries that made up their empire without ever making appropriate reparations, pleading that their activities on foreign soil benefited everyone. These operations became global giants with more power than democratically elected governments, under the influence of US economic imperialism, itself driven by a paranoia that Soviet-aided countries, often in their own backyard, were spreading a message that there was an alternative system. We now know that trickle down wealth generation does not work and the result of the pursuit of oil and minerals in Africa, the Middle East and Asia was the rise of dictatorships and a wealthy elite leaving the vast majority of the ordinary population in an existence of abject poverty, starved of fresh water, adequate food and education. Injustice and inequality breed malcontent and extremism; ignorance allows extremism to spread.
We haven’t embarked upon a war on terror but have begun to see the inevitable conclusion of a history of opportunism without ever redressing the wrongs. Until we banish third world debt, provide fast, free communication throughout the entire world, encourage developing nations to utilise renewable energy and address basic health needs, inequality and extremism will persist. Within the UK, government and business pay lip service to equality but there’s still an under-representation of women and ethnic minority Britons in parliament and board rooms. I accept that strides have been made but progress is being curtailed by the same old vested interests (arms manufacturers, petrochemical giants, big pharma, the banks) all pulling the strings of the puppets in Westminster, such that inequality is increasing in the UK with a threat to the NHS from US-healthcare insurance companies, the threat of removal of tax credits to those in need of welfare support, the requirement for food banks, and the language of the government which labels you a ‘worker or a shirker’, or a ‘striver or skiver’. In the US, Donald Trump epitomises the self-interest and nastiness of the super-rich blaming over-zealous gun control for the extent of the atrocity in France.
I’ve just been on a visit to an M.C. Escher exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, not only because his prints show incredible cartographical, architectural, mathematical and zoological detail but also because his work was adopted by the hippie movement as an art of altered perception. Escher turned down a request by the Rolling Stones for a design for an album cover though in my student days I seem to recall seeing a number of Psychology books featuring his work. The adoption of the Escher-like logo by Van der Graaf Generator for their 1975-76 reunion albums Godbluff, Still Life and World Record was rather iconic, stylistically linking the three sonically related releases, but it was also appropriate that the 2005 quartet should retain the same graphic. Escher was strongly influenced by the tile designs from the Alhambra in Granada and the architecture of the Mezquita, Córdoba and it’s widely recognised that between the 8th and 13th Centuries the Islamic empire contributed greatly to mathematics and astronomy and that learning was much prized. It’s therefore incredible that the fighters of Islamic State should totally demolish Palmyra, the UNESCO world heritage site in Syria and jihadist rebels from Mali should want to destroy the shrines of Sufi saints along with priceless medieval manuscripts in Timbuktu. In Mali, they also wanted to ban music, threatening to cut out the tongues of singers and cutting of the hands of instrumentalists. This behaviour is barbaric and runs counter to the idea of the area between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers being the cradle of civilisation.
My values, and one of the reasons I love progressive rock, are inclusiveness and the adoption of outside influences, learning from different sources and living harmoniously. This process has to be mutually beneficial, otherwise there’s an imbalance, an inequity. We shouldn’t adopt an illegal approach to countering jihadists but work out a way to ensure they are dealt with by the letter of international law; by ensuring that everyone, all over the world, has ready access to the basics required for life. Providing adequate food, fresh water, shelter and education, with clean energy supplied by local, renewable sources can empower humankind to make truly democratic decisions to shape their own, successful futures.
Prog is the antithesis of hatred. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.