Vigil for the victims of New Zealand attack

Sometimes you feel helpless when bad things happen thousands of miles away. I felt I needed to show solidarity with those who are suffering.

In the days after the Christchurch killings I felt utterly helpless. In the past when I have seen such suffering I have been able to help by sending to money to those who need it. This time is different as how can you let people know that these people are not alone and we won’t sit silently allowing such hate and evil go unnoticed.

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I follow a north east group which protests against racism and those who chose to stir up hatred within the entire country. They felt it was necessary to hold a vigil for the people who have survived the massacre in New Zealand.

It was amazing to see so many gather in St Nicolas’s Cathedral, Newcastle. It isn’t surprising but very sad at the same time that we have witnesses the rise of hate-related incidents in this country and it parts of the world. People’s inability to leave in a harmonious way has led us into some terrible times.

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The rise in social media and people sharing unsavoury views about certain groups has led some in our society to have views which I think are plainly warped. Their views about the Muslim community has been distorted by those who have played a dangerous divisive game for years. Spreading lies and mistruths for their own agenda.

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Thank goodness now the social media companies have started to crack down on those who spread hate. The main ones have put the brakes on those who spread hatred. They have decried their so-called action as attempt to ‘silence’ and ‘censor’ them. This only plays into the hands of the supporters as it gets them angry even though there are thousands of other ways in which hatred can be spread throughout the world.

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The evening was a peaceful reflection where there were members representing a number of faiths, including those from the Jewish and Roma communities, came together as one. As someone with no faith I still strongly believe in standing shoulder to shoulder with those in a minority who had suffered in such a way.

Dipu Ahad is a Labour councillor in Newcastle and was the person who introduced some people to speak about the attack in New Zealand. It was heart-warming to hear of the generosity of those who had reached out to the community on the other side of the world. As I said at the beginning of this post I certainly felt helpless at being unable to share my sympathies with those who were hurting but after this evenings vigil I felt I was able to give my support to the victims of hate and violence.

New Zealand Mosque Attack

My heartfelt sympathies go out to the friends and family of this despicable crime. New Zealand and other decent countries deserve better than this awful tragedy. 

I watched carefully the response of people from all side of the political spectrum. It was incredible to see the wonderful response of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden.

These sort of crimes could happen anywhere in the world. The fact that it happened in New Zealand was appalling as they had been immune to terrorism on the scale that has been seen other countries around the world.

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The different between other terrorist attacks was that it was carried out by a white supremacist someone who believed that his race is better than others and those people who were killed somehow deserved it.

Like others who have murdered in the name of an ideology the terrorist had to be radicalised a word that is often used to describe the process of someone turning from a normal human being into a cold mass murdering killer. I wrote a blog post in 2017 about how people become radicalised into becoming terrorists and it is often a long process that has taken place over time where people will look for answers to complex problems.

People will want to know the reason why the terrorist did what did and why he thought carrying out such an atrocity was the right thing to do. He will try to promote his cause in court and claim his a soldier in some sort of war. We often put ourselves in the position of the person carrying out the crime and wonder how and why they could carry out something so despicable.

These sort of actions don’t happen over night they aren drip-fed through media, television and news outlets that often portray immigrant communities in a negative light. We know there are bad people in all races not all are perfect we all have problems to contend with whether it is illegal drug trades, knife crime or domestic violence. Each community has its own share of problems.

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Just as the Islamic community now is being blamed for terrorist groups like Isis people believe in conspiracy theories repeating by far right agitators like Tommy Robinson. These sort of conspiracies are extremely dangerous. At the turn of the 20th century there was a publication printed called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In it was the ideas that somehow the Jewish people should be regarded with suspicion as they were seen as some sort of threat to world order and that they were the ones who wanted to over all control and domination.

The same lies is being spread by those on the far-right and those who choose to demonise all immigrants as bad people. This is how people like the terrorist become radicalised in the first place.

I always like to think I am a free-thinker. I am a humanist. I don’t believe in god but I do believe religion and political ideologies can have a strong influence on someones beliefs, and actions. Sometimes those actions have catastrophic consequences.

I want a life with compassion, hope, love, justice and hopefully peace.

 

 

Good Grief

Who talks to you about grief when you are growing up? When my grandfather died in 1984, my parents went into silence and I was told under no circumstances was I going to see him. Another member of my family experienced the death of a friend and again I was told not to talk to him about it. Silence was the way to deal with grief.

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It was certainly a generational thing, as it wasn’t just applicable to my family alone. You didn’t talk when someone died. It not a healthy way I have learned to start to cope with someones passing.

Jeff Brazier was in a relationship with Big Brother contestant Jade Goody. They had two sons in that time and he was given custody of them when Jade sadly passed away after suffering from cervical cancer.

I always remember that when I was a teacher, there were a lot of lads that had so many problems due to losing someone. Usually a bond between them and a grandfather and the grandfather had passed away and they have an inability to cope and deal with the grief, which in turn, causes major mental health problems.

It’s about time that people talked about grief and I am sure that Jeff Brazier, through his own experiences, will be able to guide people in how to deal with the over-whelming emotion of losing someone.

How do you move on?

I spoke in the last blog about remembering the time when my father died and how it has affected me now that my mother is no longer with us. There are some people who stick to death and bereavement like chewing gum sticks to the cat. But how do we move on?

Firstly, do you want to move on? There seems a thread now in society that if we aren’t at the grave every week or sometimes even every day that we have forgotten the person or the person somehow doesn’t hold the same meaning to us when they were alive. I have seen and read numerous times how families are clinging on to the memory of their loved one in some vain attempt to keep them alive. Siblings forced to mourn for a brother or sister they haven’t even met.

Because you are moving on with your life that doesn’t mean you forget the person or love them less. Building shrines to someone aren’t helpful. I will talk about the person but there are times now after the stage of mourning where you have to start living your life again. Sitting around thinking about the person you have lost all day isn’t helpful or healthy.

I am not a one to shy away from bereavement and expressing the hurt and pain it causes. At my funeral, I don’t want any of this ‘celebration of life’ crap. I want crying and tears. Then when you have done the dishes and hoovered then you can raise a glass or seven and then start moving on with life. I am dead. Gone. Not coming back. No amount of bright colours or waving off balloons is going to bring me back. I might joke about this but I know that a lot of people want a celebration of life and there is nothing wrong with that either. It’s not me and not who I am.

People who post messages to a person on social media like they are looking in from another spiritual dimension can be helpful for younger people in the beginning but again I have read where people are posting messages about how the person who has died will be drinking alcohol and spending Christmas on a cloud somewhere. A bizarre way to view the afterlife and a little childish in my opinion.

Bereavement can cause a whole raft of behaviours that are strange. It’s when that behaviour is unhealthy or even dangerous that help should be given. It can cause serious mental illness and as someone who has suffered from depression for over twenty years I have had to be aware of my own health and keeping that from slipping downwards.

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The best advice I have heard in the past few months is taking a few small steps into the world again but don’t expect change over night. I am terrified of leaving my home town and going on holiday. I am racked with guilt about ‘enjoying’ life. Somehow it seems wrong to have a life outside of mum. Having been her carer for so many years. But if I was to ask what she might say about my guilt, she probably would laugh, and ask ‘What on earth have you got to feel guilty about?’.

She would then chastise me for being silly and tell me to move on. It would have been her way of dealing with things. Dismissing them and then getting on with life. If life was as easy as that I wouldn’t be writing this blog in my living room but in the south of France somewhere.

So you take small steps until you are ready. I went for bereavement counselling as part of those small steps I am not ashamed to say I got help. There is no shame in asking for help from anyone. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad I did it. It doesn’t make me any weaker or less of a man it means I am being honest about what I am feeling and willing enough to take steps to being well again.

100 Battle of the Somme

I don’t remember doing any work on World War I at school when I was young. I think we did some on the Second World War I might be wrong. I certainly think that it is important that we teach not just young people about war but also everyone who is living today. A respect for the past and its atrocities is needed for a better future.

The Battle of the Somme started on the morning of July 1st exactly a hundred years ago today. It has been said that it was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of World War I. It is estimated that there were least 60 thousand casualties by the end of the first day and around 20 thousand of those men lost their lives.

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The horrors of the war are just unimaginable. People thought that it would be over by Christmas but seeing the wounded come and with horrific injuries, it must have been a sharp realisation to those in the front that it was going to take more effort and sacrifice than first thought.

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Some of the men were teenagers. A word that wasn’t used a hundred years ago once you got to the age at which you could work which was around fourteen you were considered an adult and joined others at work each day. Young men who signed up for the army before conscription was brought in were trained and sent to the trenches. Many never to return home to their loved ones.

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I think it’s more poignant to remember their sacrifice of their own lives for the freedom we have today. Those who have greed and hatred in their hearts aren’t welcome. Commemorating their loss is something that we all should do and take time out of our arguments and squabbles, however trivial some of them seem to be, to realise the events of 1916.

Moving on

I moved to the house I live in now 14 years ago. I was so excited about getting away from the old house I really didn’t think for a moment that I would spend the next three month after moving day being utterly miserable and regretting my decision.

I know that statistics tell us that moving house is one of the most stressful things to have to to go through and it’s up there with divorce and bereavement. Being naive to this at the time, the move was extremely stressful as the looney that was buying the house that I owed demanded all sorts of work be carried out at my expense before she moved in. She dictated the process all along. She knew I was in love with the house that I wanted to move to and kept making pretty unreasonable demands.

When moving day finally arrived I really questioned whether all the stress, time and money was worth it. I was now in a house that I hated and was desperate to have the life I had back in the in the old place. I had moved on quite literally and I felt it was unnecessary and ultimately the worst decision of my life.

Sometimes you look at the past and you are desperate to go back to what you had. You want that final conversation or just time to say goodbye and know that the person you have lost knows that you loved them. Grief can do strange things to people and I what I have learned so far is not to punish yourself. Taking each day at a time is important and making small steps at a time when you know you cannot run.

Some people try and keep themselves busy almost to shield themselves from the pain but there will be a time when that grief will manifest itself in whatever form it takes. It can creep up on you when you are least expecting it. If you are one of those people who say ‘I am not going to cry or let it affect me’ you might be doing more harm to yourself in the long term.

I know people who we all have lost wouldn’t want to see us upset with pain but sometimes we need to let go of what the person we think would want and allow ourselves to mourn. In allowing ourselves moments we are releasing the pain. It’s not that we are releasing them or loving them any less we are allowing ourselves to heal. It’s not moving from the love but moving on with our lives.

Which music has helped?

In my last blog about Music I said that I had listened to music over the past few months and it has given me comfort. Even more so in the past month in 2016. I have said before I have loved music since I was about eleven but I love it when new music comes out and really get into albums. Obviously I am a tad excited about the new Pet Shop Boys album out 1st April called “Super”.

Here are some of the songs and their videos that have helped over the past few months. I have mentioned some of the artists before, some you might have heard of and others you certainly will know.

Troye Sivan – Wild – Blue Neighbourhood

A great song about new relationships. Realising that what you had at the time was pretty crap hence ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ leaving the past behind and knowing that you are going to start on something new which for him seems pretty special.

Justin Bieber – I’ll show you – Purpose

A beautiful video shot in Iceland. It’s a confession. He knows he has fucked up in a lot of things in his life. Haven’t we all? But most of our stupid moments aren’t played out on the world’s stage as his are. Some will be publicity stunts others will be genuine moments of madness. He said he isn’t perfect. I have asked before sometimes if his management have a tighter rein on him and now he is an adult he will be rebelling. Everyone should be given grace and redemption. Makes me realise you can have everything that you want and still not be happy.

Scream – Michael Jackson (ft Janet Jackson) – HIStory : Past, Present and Future Book 1.

I hadn’t really listened to this song for along time (I cannot believe it was released over 20 years ago) but events in December 2015 brought it to mind and it fitted perfectly. You only need to watch the video to realise how stressed MJ was at the time. Partly his own fault and partly tabloid garbage. This song really helped. Helped me vent my anger.

Adele – Hello – 25

There is nothing better knowing that what pain you have gone through someone else has been through the same. I love this song as it takes me away from current things and makes me think of people from 15-30 years ago. I wonder what they are doing now? Would they like to meet? Do you ever think they think fondly of the time we spent together? These questions go through my head.

Loved me Back to Life –  Celine Dion – Loved Me Back to Life

I mentioned in 2013 that I had someone who did love me back to life. I love him to bits. It’s only when you know true love that you do find happiness. Finding a person who loves you unconditionally and you love them back is hard to find. There are so many who I thought were good friends and have turned out to be nob heads.

Stranger in Moscow – Michael Jackson – HIStory : Past, Present and Future Book 1

This is a bleak song about loneliness and despair. I am sure underneath all of Michael Jackson’s talent and craziness probably was a person who just wanted to be normal. When you are in the depths of depression and loss you don’t feel like anyone cares and you are isolated from the rest of the world. It’s an awful feeling.

Bond Meets Stacey – OST A View to a Kill 

What an odd piece of music you might think. It is take from the scene in A View to a Kill and I have listened to it over and over again. Beautiful. The reason I have included it is that mum LOVED the Bond films. When her dementia finally took over I heard this music come on my iTunes and I couldn’t stop crying at the time. It over-whelmed me. To know that she wouldn’t be able to watch and appreciate these films any more. It filled me with such sadness. It also helps me now to look over the years and decades I looked after mum putting on a DVD for her which she loved and appreciated.