I thought I’d tell you a story

I thought I’d tell you a story. A true story. Or as true as a told story can be.

I think it may be a tale about the perennial wrestle between pragmatism and principle, but I may be wrong.  If you read on, you can decide for yourself.

The story is about events that took place sometime in the late 1980’s, may be the early the 1990’s. I can’t be any more exact than that, but the date is not really of any consequence.  Or, it occurs to me, perhaps it is.  The way one thinks about things can be quite time or era-specific.

So:

There once was an Urban Farm in the London Borough of Wandsworth.  It was called Elm Farm. I don’t know why it was named that, for I can recall no Elm trees in the vicinity. But I may be wrong. Perhaps there were some Elm trees nearby.  But it doesn’t matter, the story is the same with or without Elm trees.

Although on a very small patch of land, it was quite a successful farm.  It had goats, a cow, chickens, geese, rabbits.  And lots of local, regular human users. Kids loved it, and many busied themselves with farm-type tasks, including smelly, mucky ones.

Animals were born on the farm, and some were killed there: the chickens were for food and eggs, so some got the chop on a regular basis; and some continued to lay eggs – and lived as long as they performed their duty in that regard.  The goats were also sent for slaughter, also on a regular basis, their meat coming back to the farm for sale locally.  You could say that the circle of life and death was played out here. Continue reading

Nineteen days and counting to Israel’s destruction of another Palestinian village

Umm Al-Hiran Village: In 19 days this village will be demolished by Israel

In nineteen days’ time, that is from today the 27 March 2018, five hundred Bedouin men, women and children, residents of the village of Umm Al-Hiran in the Israel Negev desert, will see their homes destroyed, their school, community facilities and mosque razed to the ground, their livelihoods liquidated. The villagers will then be forcibly moved to the nearby Bedouin township of Hura, one of the poorest in the country. Already severely overcrowded, it lacks sufficient services, housing plots and infrastructure even for its current residents.

In addition to the injustice of an entire village population being uprooted against their will, the move would also trigger a profound, disorientating change in the economics, culture and meaning of the villagers’ very sense of themselves as an agricultural-based community now to be forcibly inserted into an alien, over-crowded, unfamiliar and unwanted urban life.

Umm Al-Hiran at present

Continue reading

Israel: Apartheid State?

This is the second blog that departs from my usual patch and addresses a subject that needs to be kept in the public eye.  This is my very minor contribution to aiding that purpose.  I speak of the Palestine/Israel situation. Postings on this topic will continue to form part of my blog, though I recognise that for many this will not be a subject of interest.

The particular prompt for extending the scope of my blog was the good fortune I enjoyed in being able to join an Extended  Study Tour of   Palestine/Israel. This gave me the opportunity to see for myself at least some aspects of  the situation on the ground, and to meet organisations and individuals affected by, and assiduously seeking to counter, the gross injustices perpetrated by the Israeli state. This by no means makes me an expert, and no such claim is registered here.

This post should not be necessary, but it is.   It should not be necessary because it should be common knowledge that the State of Israel is an apartheid State, as rigorous and focused in its pursuit of institutionalised racism as was apartheid South Africa.

I’m uncomfortable accepting this position, but it is unavoidable, this because the internal logic of political Zionism’s founding purpose necessarily entails the institutionalisation of a comprehensive, all-encompassing discriminatory regime.  Such a regime requires, first, the reduction of the Palestinian Arab population living within Israel’s borders (however defined) by virtually any means possible, this to maintain a significant Jewish majority within State boundaries; second, it requires the aggressive diminishment or full curtailment of Palestinians’ fundamental human rights.  The two aspects are of course interwoven.

My previous post on the subject gave some examples of what this ‘internal logic’ entails in practice. Sadly, it is probably the best bet you could ever make that there will be many, many more shameful, cruel, abusive and illegal acts carried out by the Israeli State in the hours, days and months ahead. There is no doubt about this – Israel, to repeat, is a State that, as currently constituted, has given itself no alternative but to pursue the internal logic of its own founding principles.  Contrary to the currently dominant cultural and religious tenets professed by Israel, this logic and practice is not directed by heaven, but summoned by man.

In this post I want briefly to show why the position is as I have characterised it. I want also to explain why it is simply false to characterise Israel a democratic State.  The claim is able to be made only by the deft use of smoke and mirrors. In plain sight the proposition is somewhere between risible and flagrantly deceitful.  I touch only on a few aspects of this ‘internal logic’.  Other agencies and organisations have documented the full extent of the institutionalised web of discriminatory law, regulation, policy and practice.  Some links appear at the end of this piece. Continue reading

Here we go again: No Risk, No Play

I’d forgotten, it was some time ago, but a series of tweets I saw reminded me that I had responded to an invitation to write an article for LA+ Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture, published by the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. They wanted an article about – you guessed it! – ‘Risk and Play’. 

Truth be told,  I find it increasingly difficult to write anything on the subject, this because I find myself in a seemingly perpetual cycle of repetition such that anything I write on the subject feels over-worked, over-used.    No matter, I accepted the invitation in a spirit of self-entrapment – by committing myself, stuff would need to be written.  

The article below is as it appears in the journal save that I have reinserted twenty two words which, for whatever reason, did not make the final edit. (If you’re the sort of person who enjoys a quiz – a Christmas Quiz! – you may enjoy having a punt at which words have been reinserted.)

Speaking of Christmas, I wish readers greetings of the season, and more especially, a 2018 of peace and goodwill. On that latter wish, well, don’t hold your breath, but do what you can. Others are having a bash at it too.

Children and teenagers want and need to take risks. They do this ‘naturally’ in the sense that, left to their own devices, they seek out and create encounters that carry degrees of risk or uncertainty. This process of risk-taking necessarily entails exploration, discovery, and learning – about oneself, one’s capabilities, and the wider world. To take a risk is to assert one’s autonomy and power of agency. It is to learn by doing that actions have consequences. It is an aspect of moral education. Play and risk-taking are creative acts. A perspective to bear in mind as we briefly survey the scene.

Here’s a conventional playground: fenced, rubber or synthetic ‘safety’ surface, inert, uniform, dead. Inside the fence are metal swings, slides, and climbing frames. Climbing, swinging, and sliding are the only actions the equipment formally allows. But there are always renegades who will use equipment ‘wrongly:’ climbing on to the roof of play equipment that was not ‘meant’ for climbing; being upside down on a swing or slide. It’s simple really: children are exercising their sense of agency, their autonomy, their creative capacity to bend even seemingly resistant environments to their own purposes and interests. And the risks they take are generated by their choices, their imaginations, their creativity. Continue reading

Palestinian metaphor: mud bricks

This blog represents a departure from its usual hunting ground. It addresses a subject that I have been itching to speak about via this medium for some time. My reluctance to do so, until now, was based on my awareness that my understanding of the issue was based primarily on book-learning, newspaper/magazine articles and lectures, albeit over many, many years.  I speak of the Palestine/Israel situation.

What releases me now is that I was fortunate to join an Extended  Study Tour of   Palestine/Israel (1) that gave me the opportunity to see for myself the situation on the ground, and to meet organisations and individuals affected by, and assiduously seeking to counter, the gross injustices perpetrated by the Israeli state. This by no means makes me an expert, and no such claim is registered here. But I have given myself permission to write about it in what is, after all, my blog. 

Reader, you may wish to read on, or quietly depart, either before what follows, or after.

It’s a model of sustainability and the philosophy of ‘using what’s to hand’: once Israeli soldiers have knocked down the school room, the sophistication of the design, coupled to the nature of the building material – locally made mud bricks – ensure that it can be resurrected within hours by local Palestinians.  Which is just as well, for the Israeli army is quite likely to turn up again to repeat what I imagine they call an exercise.  Or they turn their attention to another village school there to demonstrate, once again, their capacity for wanton destruction.  Not to mention at the same time traumatising children and humiliating parents and teachers alike. Continue reading

Blog 39

Islington Play CEO

I know it has been a while since my last blog. I was waiting til I felt a bit more settled and knew what to say but I can see that this is not going to happen anytime soon so here I am.

I am feeling overwhelmed by social media and am a bit reluctant to add to the outpourings of very real emotion with my own thoughts. I guess if I feel like this then others do too.

I am struck once again at the sophistication needed by young people to be able to cope with the immediacy and rawness of social media. I have grown up and been used to my news being filtered through lenses that may have, to a greater or lesser extent, been relevant. I have spoken before about my dependence on the Guardian to provide my news with a slant that I find comfortable.

View original post 277 more words

BBC news story flagrantly manipulates statistics on school accident claims

Good, Tim. Needs nailing.

Rethinking Childhood

A major news story on the BBC website this morning uses false comparisons and basic errors to create a highly misleading picture about the sums paid out for accident claims in schools. Far from revealing a ‘claims culture’, the figures actually show that payouts make up a tiny proportion of education budgets, and are not on the rise.

Screengrab BBC News home page 7 April 2017 with school payout story circled

View original post 827 more words