25 December 2006

Executing people

The BBC News website announced today that four prisoners on 'death row' in Japan have just been executed. In Libya, several health workers accused and convicted of spreading HIV / AIDS, from which children have died, are now sentenced to death. I have little hesitation in condemning without reservation these barbarities. Killing is wrong. It is as though a blood sacrifice is required to restore the balance of justice. In the Libyan case, the people found guilty are patently innocent of the crimes, but the local people (according to the BBC News website) want someone to 'pay the price' for their children being infected. Whether or not the Japanese prisoners were in fact guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted and sentenced to death I have no idea, and would make no difference. The only spirit served by executing them is brutality, thus increasing the sum of violence in the world. People throughout the world are in desperate need of less, not more, barbarity. As wars, and police death squads, and vigilante groups, and terrorist cells should become only of the past, so should executing people. Abolish the death penalty!

24 December 2006

Wikipedia article about High Shincliffe

I have been busy: writing an article about the village in which I live. I have uploaded the article onto Wikipedia at the following address:


22 December 2006


This weblog posting is, as many of my weblogs postings are, incomplete.

As Christmas 2006 nears, gifting becomes for me the source of considerable, increasing and unnecessary anxiety. I also feel apprehensive about being corralled into a ritual of elevated expectations awaiting the inevitable anticlimax and disappointment. It all feels like humbug to me. Yet gifting can be such a wonderful transaction that strengthens and deepens a relationship.

I am a hypocrite. The views I express here are those to which I aspire, not those I uphold in practice. As a result of writing this weblog posting, I intend to try to live more closely to my aspirations.

I have many things. If I desire some thing - food, an item of clothing, toiletries, a book, a DVD - I buy it. In both contemporary and historical contexts I am wealthy enough. I no longer require charity.

There are times in the year, such as Christmas, my birthday, and on your return from holiday, when I might receive a gift from you. It is kind that you should think of me. I do not require a gift from you at those times, although those are the occasions when a gift may be less unexpected. I like it best when I receive a gift unprompted by events or dates.

I have no right to receive a gift from you. Should I receive a gift from you, then I receive your gift to me as a mark of your caring for me. Should I receive no gift from you on a day when a gift might be less unexpected, then I am no worse off than on the day before. However, I might occasionally reflect on the quality of our relating.

I like it best when your gift to me shows that you know who I am, that you care who I am, and that you care for me.

I cannot dictate your gift to me, for to do so would seem to miss the point. I am aware, however, of my reaction to your gift. If you gave me money when I was poor, I was intensely grateful; but were you to give me money now, I would be left wondering how much you wish to know about me. Should you give me aftershave, I would be left wondering whether you notice that I have worn a beard for thirty years. Should you give me a silk tie, a leather wallet, a box of milk chocolates, or a book about football or about non-vegan cuisine, I would be left wondering whether you have heard me saying who I am. Sometimes I am left wondering whether your gifting might represent a ritual rather more than kindness, and I can find it easier to cope with you not giving me a gift.

Occasionally I wonder whether your gift might be more about you than it is about me. If you want something, then why not obtain it for yourself? If you want to give to charity, then give to charity - there is nothing for us in you gifting to charity. If you want something from me, then why not ask me for it. Even though I might refuse, and our relationship would be hurt a little, the honesty involved should stand us in good stead for the future.

There are occasions when I give you a gift, mostly to show my caring for you. I like best to give gifts when least expected of me, not least because then you can be certain that the gift and gifting were intended.

I like best to give a gift that speaks of my knowledge of you. However, I might not always get this right because my knowledge may be insufficient: I rarely buy clothes as gifts because I have little confidence that I know your taste well enough; I rarely buy books as gifts because I am unlikely to know whether you already have that book; I rarely buy wine for friends who know wine well because I have little confidence that I could distinguish between a good wine and a mediocre wine.

I try never to give a gift that might offend in some way, such as a book about how to manage your life better, or a bottle of whiskey if you are a recovering alcoholic, or confectionery if you have eating / weight issues. I try never to give gifts that might contravene your political / ethical / moral / spiritual sensitivities, such as a book about Islam if you are a devout Christian, or food that is not clearly labeled as Kosher if you are Jewish, or a T-shirt produced in a 'developing economy' sweat shop if I know you to be enthusiastic about Fair Trade. I risk getting this wrong, and however painful it might be for both of us, I should rather know that I had made a mistake.

In gifting to you, I am unlikely to contravene my own morality. For example, I would neither gift you animal flesh, nor a compendium of 'Irish jokes', nor items that result from the proceeds of crime or fund terrorism (state-sponsored or otherwise). This does not imply, however, that I would intend to promote my own political / ethical / moral / spiritual preferences, nor my own taste. I am unlikely to give you recipes for a vegan cuisine, unless I knew that you too are a vegan; I am unlikely to give you tickets for a Van Morrison concert unless I knew that you too especially enjoy his music. I am unlikely to gift you a subscription to an environmental magazine unless I knew that you too are enthusiastic about green issues. I am unlikely to gift you my donation to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), although I am a member, because there is nothing of you, or for you, in that transaction. There are many gifts in the world awaiting my gifting to you about which we can both feel entirely comfortable.

One respect in which I am lately no longer a hypocrite is that my gifting is no longer ritualistic. However, I do not yet feel comfortable in my newly-attained position, and still feel a heavy social pull towards the ritual of gifting.

As a postscript in December 2007, I found this on the BBC News website:

To be continued ...

05 December 2006

Oh My Newsnight

I have uploaded a short movie onto the YouTube website. The current address of the movie is:


The movie has many technological flaws, including a two or three second sound drop-out, that I wish to remedy. Each time I upload an amended version of the movie, I shall update this weblink.

The movie script is my posting in this weblog entitled Green Issues of 4 November 2006. I anticipate leaving the movie text unamended, because I intend to make several more short movies looking in greater depth at a wider range of green issues.