on tough laws

“I respect tough laws. Back home if you steal they’ll cut off your hand. So nobody steals.”

So a Palestinian coffee shop owner (perhaps rather stereotypically) vented his frustration to me. A homeless lady had come into his establishment earlier in the day, she’d pretended to look at the menu, and when his back was turned she’d grabbed some muesli bars and drinks and made a run for it. He caught her, but much to his shock the police refused to do anything about it. Less than ten quid meant no charges apparently. So the lady was let off (having pocketed some of the food) and the owner was told to go back to his business. Continue reading “on tough laws”

on glory

I’ve seen glory in Berlin. They keep their streets clean there despite the odd graffiti. They speak English there because why not. They remember their past because leaflets line the streetlamps saying Fuck The AFD. They remember their past because ruins grab rudely toward the sky alongside chrome towers, because the fruits of war need to be seen as much as the fruits of peace. Continue reading “on glory”

on local colour

What is local colour? Local colour is when a glassy-eyed ancient hobbles across the Starbucks around closing time, her knees buckling with the effort, and hollers at the manager as loud as she can “Gerard! I’ll boot yer arse ye cheeky wee bastard.”
To which Gerard hollers back “Gerard! Meh meh neh meh neh meh neh.”
And all the staff, including Gerard, giggle and clap the old lady on the back.

on the ditch at Dachau

On the edge of Dachau concentration camp is a concrete ditch, about 6 feet across and 6 deep, steeply angled. Two barbed wire fences separate this ditch (which in turn separated the rest of the camp) from the outside world. One imagines a fearful night where a prisoner, desperate for escape or wanting it all to just end (or both), hurls himself across the ditch, scrambling up, only to entangle himself on the wire. Then comes the alarm’s banshee wail, angry shouts, frantic barking, then the crack of rifles, then nothing.

And while it seems some of the prisoners did this just to end it all, clearly the vast majority of prisoners didn’t. I can’t presume to know why, but I would say this at least affirms human life, even if one is forced to live it in hell on earth. Even living through daily torture, suffering, and humiliation, the prisoners treated life as if it were the most important thing. One more bite of stale bread. One more attempt not to get another beating. One more resigned but brave climbing into the cramped bunks at night, ready for the next day. Despite it all, life was treated by the prisoners as precious. And given that this is how most people in most places at most times treat life, it is probably true.

So it really boggles the mind when any ideology, any group, or any system treats life, or certain people’s lives, as if it weren’t precious.

on the truth in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, my home, has seen better days. Protests, demonstrations, street violence, bomb plots, conspiracy theories of all shapes and colours, have shaken us all.

One side claims to fight for human rights and freedom, the other claims to fight for stability and order. I haven’t committed myself to either side despite the horrors of the last month or so, but here is what I make of it all:

We are, all of us, focusing on the wrong fight. Continue reading “on the truth in Hong Kong”

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