British Politics and the Hate Machine

By Jason Michael

Terrorism is not the problem in the United Kingdom. The real problem is that terrorism has been manufactured by the state and used as a weapon to divide us, all to advance the ambitions and aspirations of the ruling class.

Last night in Finsbury Park, a busy inner-city stretch of north London, another vehicle was used as a weapon of terror; careering off the road into innocent pedestrians with the deliberate intention of maiming and killing in the cause of hatred. What sets this incident apart from what the British press usually highlight is that the perpetrator, 47 year old Cardiff man Darren Osborne, was a white Islamophobic extremist, radicalised – if The Telegraph is to be trusted – as a result of the London Bridge attack. His crime was no less an act of terrorism.

Why is all of this happening? This is the question on so many lips right now. We used to feel safe on the streets of our towns and cities, but now we are all on edge – all frightened. Answering this question is not easy, but before an attempt to answer it can be made we must first acknowledge that what we are experiencing is a serious social conflict in the United Kingdom. What we are seeing is the fruition of a race war that, rather than being a natural state of conflict between different racial, ethnic, and religious groups, has been wholly and cynically manufactured by the state.


Government and media pandering to the far-right breeds the politics of hate

One former Northern Irish Loyalist paramilitary commented in a televised interview that it was not the case that in the mid-1960s some sort of looney gas was dropped on Belfast, turning everyone into deranged killers and psychopaths. Conflicts develop, and they are the product of certain processes within and throughout the conflicting factions. There is nothing deterministic about conflict, but it happens because certain social, economic, and political factors are put into motion, and invariably to serve a political agenda.

It is the same in modern Britain. There is nothing essential about this “clash of civilisations,” where we have been led to believe Muslims and Christians simply do not get on. Muslims and “Christians” have been brought to the brink of open warfare in the United Kingdom to serve the purposes of the politico-economic ideology of capitalism. As such this social and sectarian conflict is but a theatre in a pre-existing British social conflict – class war. Theresa May and her government of multi-millionaires and billionaires have systematically chipped away at all the bonds that hold the fabric of our society together, turning working class neighbours against one another in order to distract them from the reality that the political ruling class is waging war on all of us.

Those at the bottom of society are not struggling by accident. Poverty in Britain is never a necessary condition of life. It is the result of decisions made by wealthy and powerful people in government to enrich themselves and their own class at the expense of everyone else. “Terrorism” is a useful distraction. It serves to divide communities and alienate scapegoats. It keeps everyone’s attention from the theft that is going on all around us. Darren Osborne had nothing to fear from terrorism. He, as we discovered only last week, was in more danger from his social housing.

Terrorism happens. It is rare, but it happens. “Islamist” terrorism never happened in the UK before Tony Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq and the subsequent involvement of every British government since in the funding of terrorists in the Middle East and North Africa, so it may have its causes – but it is still rare. Yet the terrorism of wall-to-wall coverage and existential threat is a complete invention, a fabrication of the British government. Initially under the criminal Blairites its purpose was to legitimise Britain’s neo-imperialist Middle Eastern invasions and human rights violations, but – in the context of austerity Britain – it has been adapted to suit the purposes of domestic power.

Blair, then Brown, then Cameron used terror as an excuse to securitise the United Kingdom; turning it into the most surveilled nation-state on earth bar none, always corroding our rights and freedoms. We have less privacy, less civil, political, and human rights now than when John Major was Prime Minister. We have become a police state in the guise of a democracy, all to assist in the transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top that has been happening in the UK since Blair came to government. We are on the cusp, with Theresa May’s proposed “digital charter,” of putting Kim Jong-un’s North Korea to shame. This is not a free country.

May’s hunger for power has seen the latest mutation in the state’s use of terrorism come about. The more she loses the support of the centre the more she romances the right and the far-right, edging further to the right with every new loss at the centre. Her dalliance with the fascists – all for the sake of votes – has meant that the tail has to wag the dog. Her rhetoric and political posturing has had to reconfigure the spectre of terrorism in the public imagination, all the while giving licence to more and more acts of racist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic hate speech and hate crime. She is setting the country on fire to keep power and advance her class war.

At Finsbury Park last night; even after he had targeted Muslims coming from taraweeh prayers at the Finsbury Park mosque, killing one man and injuring a number of others, it was Mohammed Mahmoud – a local imam – and a handful of other Muslim men who protected Darren Osborne from an angry mob until the police arrived. Where was the clash of civilisations here? It was nowhere to be seen. What we saw was goodness and a community response to a violent, white supremacist, terrorist hate crime. This is exactly what we have witnessed in north Kensington in response to the Grenfell tower fire – another act of class war – where demonstrators like Ishmahil Blagrove are speaking out against the government’s attempts to divide his community through the weapons of poverty and terrorism.

Politics in Britain – the political hegemony of neo-Thatcherite plutocratic class warriors – has taken a dark turn, and the inter-community conflicts stemming from it; these division of the working class, are playing right into the hands of the architects of British neoliberalism and capitalism. Terrorism is nothing but a distraction, and the more we allow it to divide us in all of our communities the more we become powerless to defend ourselves from what is really going on – the wholesale theft of everything we have by those who are right now masquerading as our leaders.


Ishmahil Blagrove gives Sky reporters a little piece of his mind

032 001


Theresa May’s Easter Message

By Jason Michael

At a time when the eyes of the world are on Britain, at a time when those in charge should be doing everything in their power to look as though they are in control, Theresa May gets into a tizzy about an Easter egg hunt. How did it ever get this bad?

Prime Minister Theresa May is a vicar’s daughter and we all know – in the Church of England – that more than qualifies one to preach sermons on the importance of Easter while off selling weapons to one of the world’s greatest human rights violators. Where can we begin to get our heads around the furore that has broken around the National Trust dropping the word “Easter” from its egg hunt poster – especially when it turns out it is the biggest word on the poster? The Prime Minister’s outrage has about as much to do with a poster campaign as chocolate eggs have to do with Easter.

No one remembers the scene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ where, after being flogged down to rashers by a Roman, Jesus hurriedly opened up his Cadbury egg and stole a cheeky nibble before the end of Lent. No one remembers this bit in the film because it wasn’t in the film. It isn’t even in the book. Admittedly, eggs are a nice touch for an Easter tradition – chocolate eggs even more so – but they have squat to do with the life, death, and resurrection of a man in Palestine two thousand years ago. But when someone trolls the Archbishop of York, convincing him someone has pinched Easter from the egg hunt, England is up in arms.

I am one of those Christians who still says his prayer and reads his Bible. Every year I remember the Passion through Holy Week and light the wee bonfire at the Easter vigil. These things are important to me. So too is chocolate, mind you. But nothing of this has anything to do with Christianity or with a National Trust Easter egg hunt. It is all to do with Brexit – yes, Brexit – and what Theresa May is helping Britain to become. Little England’s idea of self-determination is all wrapped up in its fantasies of reclaiming its British identity and British values; coded xenophobia for reasserting white British supremacy over and against Europe and the immigrants they hate so much.

None of this is any different from the carry on we see in the fly-over states of the US with people getting upset over seasonal Starbucks cup designs and nativity scenes being removed from public spaces. It has nothing to do with religion whatsoever. This is a theatre of the great white culture war. Jesus has been appropriated in all of this is a symbol – a nationalistic and cultural symbol of white privilege and power, the very things the white majority in Brexit Britain and Tea Party America believe to be under threat from not-so-white outsiders.

The news flash here is that Jesus of Nazareth is more likely to have resembled Osama bin Laden than he was Theresa May’s old man. Okay, he never wore a bullet belt, carried an assault rifle, and gave orders to have people and things blown up. But, then, neither did he have a daughter who grew up to profess her Christian faith while on an arms industry junket to Saudi Arabia – a country that imprisons, tortures, and executes Christians, funds people like Osama bin Laden, and uses British munitions to murder innocent civilians in neighbouring Yemen.

Theresa May’s Christianity is paper thin. So thin and hypocritical, in fact, it makes the baby Jesus cry. She headed up the department that sent vans around London boroughs sided with billboards telling illegal immigrants to go home. What Christian can see another human being – made in the image and likeness of God – as “illegal?” Theresa May knows more than most how this populist rhetoric appeals to the new British values lobby – people who haven’t darkened the door of a church their entire lives – and how symbols like Easter can be used to great effect against victim communities.

Since religion has been brought into this, and since my own Christianity has been brought into this, I’ll say this of Theresa: There is much in the tradition of my faith I have rejected. I don’t believe the Bible is a scientific manual of how the world was created, and the whole “God is love (1 John 4:8)” thing led me to ditch ideas like hell and purgatory a long time ago. But the more I come to understand people like Theresa May, her Brexiteers, and the thugs they inspire, the more I truly wish I had the faith to believe in a place like hell – a molten, fiery abyss to where the hand of eternal justice will consign those who visit real suffering and misery upon the heads of the innocent.


Theresa May outraged at the word ‘Easter’ being dropped from eggs!

032 001


Stephen Daisley: Scotland’s Bampot Sage

By Jason Michael

When the unionist outriders of Scotland are out of ideas they invariably return to the same vomit – religion. Well hasn’t Steve run clean out of ideas and gone for the backup, stirring up all religious tensions because Britain is more precious than peace.

Even if only for reasons of mental hygiene, writers like the Daily Mail’s Stephen Daisley should be avoided like the plague. The man is an incorrigible bam. Evading his crap has nothing to do with him being a diehard unionist; most fanatical yoon hacks make for some pretty entertaining reading. No, the reason that Daisley is to be treated like the literary equivalent of an irate skunk is that he – as his employment at the Mail should suggest – has absolutely no scruples. As an extremist true believer in the glories of the Union he is prepared and willing to use any and all weapons at his disposal to forge that ever illusive positive case for Britain.

Usually this blog is quite content to let him be. Most of his readers can see through is ideologically driven nonsense. But every so often he crosses the line; picking up and instrumentalising certain topics that, considering the history and social makeup of Scotland, should be banned by a UN Convention. This week the rabid defender of Israeli war crimes and human rights violations, Journo Stephen, has found Catholicism – and the Catholic Herald has even given him some column inches to muck about with his new toy.


Stephen Daisley on Scottish Catholics, Nationalism, and filthy Republicanism.

We remember when last year another great numpty of the Scottish unionist press, David Torrance, concocted his “Ulsterisation of Scotland.” Dragging the bitter feuds of old religious sectarianism and bigotry into the Scottish argument is nothing new. These people will do whatever it takes to safeguard the Union, even if that means bringing our country to its knees in a decades-long factionalised and violent conflict like that in Northern Ireland. And this is exactly where Daisley has returned. He has cunningly identified – read: imagined – Scotland’s Catholics as the stronghold of nationalism. He might be right in saying that 56 per cent of Catholics backed independence in 2014 and that only 40 per cent of Protestants did the same, but Catholics are no more than 16 per cent of the population – hardly a freaking stronghold.

Details, however, don’t matter in Daisley’s fantasy of a popish plot. Willing as ever to stir up a hornet’s nest, the clown has barged in there – all guns blazing. You Catholics, he explains, don’t understand your own religion, before going on to describe how the Catholics of Scotland should get back in their little box – just like “Mass-going, Celtic-daft Jim Murphy” – and start doing what their Church tells them to do. The Catholic Church, according to this nugget, is under threat from rampant Scottish nationalism; the cult of Nicola Sturgeon challenges the authority of the Pope and the dogma of the SNP undermines the teaching authority of the Church of Rome.

What is this, Steve, the sixteenth century? Less than a quarter of Catholics in Scotland, says the county’s Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, even attend Mass. Unionists may prefer the Catholics of Scotland to shimmy back into the chapel and do what they are told by their clergy and bishops. Right now that would suit Daisley’s purposes because, sure, isn’t the SNP really just all about abortion and gay rights? Stephen Daisley, a spanner who routinely weaponises religion when it comes to defending poor little Israel, should maybe crack a book and learn something about Catholicism.

Since the Second Vatican Council and from the promulgation of Humane Vitae in particular Catholics, while largely continuing to identify with their cultural and religious roots, have voted with their feet when it comes to the harder edges of Catholic social and moral teaching. Even in West Belfast – a true Catholic stronghold if he’s looking for one – the chemist shops do a roaring trade in condoms of many colours. His buffoonery doesn’t stop at this. He sets in about the old divide, that subtle hairline fracture that runs between Scots Catholics – the old Scots Catholics and the new Scots Catholics who came from Ireland donkey’s years ago.

Quoting Composer James MacMillan – like composers are experts in the social dynamics of minority groups in small European countries – he writes, “The Catholic community in the west of Scotland still has a residue of the Irish republicanism of earlier generations.” Read that again, “a residue!” What he’s actually saying is that the Catholics of Glasgow are filth; filthy with the stain of republicanism. That’s what MacMillan is saying. Daisley seems to think all Catholics are – because they are rotten to the core with nationalism.

Throughout his dirty little article he weaves in delicious wee codes for those who understand them, dog whistles to sectarianism and inter-catholic division. Then he walks off and has the neck to blast us in the independence campaign as “divisive nationalists.” Scotland’s independence movement has been a trailblazer in bringing all Scots together. On this side of the national discussion religion and race don’t matter. We have our arms open to Rangers and Celtic fans alike. We don’t even mind Kilmarnock supporters for God’s sake. This is a movement for all people who call Scotland home, and we can do without this narrow, bigoted, and hateful crap from Daisley.


Thoughts on Sectarianism in Scotland

032 001


While Quirinius was Governor of Syria

By Jason Michael

Our greatest mystery is that we are time travellers. As often as we read these words and remember such things, we are taken on an anemnetic pilgrimage to a place in another time to see again the promised hope of justice and peace in a crib perfected.

Through the wee small hours this morning as we read the Gospel of the Christmas vigil Mass I was touched by the scenery. Nothing was to be seen in the pitch blackness of the night through the windows of our small chapel. Inside however, the stage was being set for the timeless drama of Bethlehem and the setting and scenery was set with the words: “While Quirinius was governor of Syria all went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth…” Our story begins with a reference to a place in time, two millennia ago and the Roman province of Syria where a certain Publius Sulpicius Quirinius had been appointed governor by the young Gaius Octavius – Emperor Caesar Augustus.

As often as I have read these words, and as familiar as they are to me, I have never realised the importance of Syria in these readings. It was important enough for the Evangelist St. Luke to record, and today I suppose – considering the place of Syria in all our minds – it is well worth a little of our attention. Now that I come to think of it, it was at Damascus in Syria that the scales fell from the eyes of St. Paul before he set out with the message of the Risen Lord. Syria then becomes a place of transition in the sacred scriptures of the Christian faith; it is where the story of the birth of Jesus begins and it is where the story of world’s largest religion begins. This Syria, the Syria of the Gospel, is never an end. It is a place of beginnings.

Right now Syria strikes us as a place of terrible and horrible endings, a country rent asunder by the violence of war and unimaginable bloodshed. We have heard of a revolution gone wrong, internecine sectarian conflicts, the brutality of a despotic state, and powerful foreign intervention on every side. As surely as the events of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem were not in the official dispatches of Quirinius, neither are the countless present day Josephs and Marys in the reports coming from the many no-man’s-lands in this atrocious conflict. Their trials and fears are lost in the din of gunfire and aerial bombardment. Their helpless babies are all but unknown to us. Theirs is the Syria of dread and end.

“Glory to God in the highest”, tonight’s Gospel continues, “and on earth peace…” And on earth peace! When have we known peace from that time to this? When did this great messianic age of perfection and peace among all people dawn upon us? It never did, and Syria is the latest line and response in the ongoing litany of war that rages everywhere humanity sets its feet. Yet as the Gospel carries our small gathering to first century Syria once again the scales are made to slip from our eyes as we see a place of beginning – where today or tomorrow peace can begin. This isn’t the world peace of beauty pageants, but the peace that costs – that transcends all our understandings, and begins with something as wonderfully hopeful as a mother and father lovingly protecting their child.

Il Divo – O Holy Night

Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

032 001


Voyage from one Baby to Another

By Jason Michael

George the Georgian and his wife Gvanci (also a Georgian as it happens) live two houses down from me. Christmas in Ireland still confuses them. They are Georgian Orthodox and celebrate Christmas on the 7 January. Yet they were delighted when I dropped in on them with a set of baby clothes for their brand new son, Nicholas (a name I have presumed is the Georgian equivalent of Irish Christmas babies getting lumbered with Noel or Noelle). Zuka, their other son who is in the throes of that developmental crisis known to every parent as the terrible twos, got a selection box. He tore this open immediately and sent Maltesers flying all over the room – exactly what I would have done if there were no rules.

George and Gvanci came to Ireland during the Georgian civil war. They met one another in Athlone of all places and have together made Dublin their home. Both of them, like me, are migrants and, also like me, outsiders in the inner city. Zuka loves dogs, and by that I mean George loves dogs, and so last year they bought a puppy but found they didn’t have the time to care for it and were forced to make the tough decision to give it up. As sad as this is, it has an upside. When they are able they like to dog-sit Ambrose (they are very brave people).

Later in the day, after braving Storm Barbara – or “Babs” as I call her – to get to my salubrious Christmas destination, and after washing down six rooms of metal crate shelves and making way for a feast, I had a chance meeting with an old friend from another life – a priest in the remotest part of this side of the world. Knowing that I would be far too late to celebrate midnight Mass I called ahead to the presbytery and asked the voice over the phone if I could come late and have a quiet moment. When at last I met the voice in person it was none other than Gerry, the priest who showed me the ropes in hospital chaplaincy and who minded my home parish after my childhood parish priest passed away. His solution was to give me a set of keys and offer me some “liquid refreshments” when my work was done.

Six of us ended up in the church after hours. Our liturgy was simple and hastily planned – like a badly done bank job – we’d sing some carols (hilariously grotesquely might I add), read the readings, make up some prayers on the hoof, be quiet for a while, and instead of a sermon we’d all tell our own Christmas story. It wasn’t Mass. It wasn’t the work of a minster choir. But it was perfect. During our story time sermon I told of how I had followed a star and brought a gift to a newborn baby, and it was then the magic began to happen.


Late night at the crib

Right in front of us was the crib and as I told my tale I was looking at another new baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lit by candles. In that manger I saw Nicholas, picked up the new baby smell and I remembered – really remembered – what this story was all about. A mum and dad, my mum and dad, your mum and dad, or anyone blessed with a wee bairn – shining, new, smelly, glorious. In a cattle shed: Migrants, refugees, Travellers, homeless, housed – it doesn’t matter. Everything that matters; every hope and dream, our futures, our universes, our pride and joy, is stirring in that cradle. Shepherds and kings and angels are brought to their knees, and so are we. Happy Christmas Nicholas! Happy Christmas all.

Author: Jason Michael (@Jeggit)

032 001