Professor Carl Heneghan is one of those people who have an amazing knack for cutting right through to the crux of a matter and explaining things simply, calmly, and clearly; and it is for these reasons, that I really, really recommend listening to this recent interview with him on why he spoke out against lockdown. There are two things he said that I wanted to comment on further: the first is the atrocious abandonment of the elderly; and secondly, the failure of a numbers-only approach to understanding complex social phenomena.
When 9/11 happened, I was living in America and became increasingly distressed, alarmed, and angered by the rise in Islamophobia, and disgusted by the general apathy of ‘good’ people’s response to the ‘war on terror’. I chose to move to France when the opportunity arrived as it was the one western country that was resisting the US/UK axis of evil nonsense. So when, after some time in France, I decided to a degree, it felt right to study religions at SOAS. There I focussed on the histories of the religions of the near and Middle East, and I chose that subject at that university so that I could arm myself with knowledge and expertise to argue against Islamophobic people. This same motivation to counter discrimination underscored my decision to do a masters in Iranian Studies (one of the most misunderstood countries in the world), and formed the crux of my PhD
I’m trying to think of the best way to start this. I can’t just write about the demo yesterday, because it’s not just about the demo yesterday. Every time I think or do anything about Palestine / Israel, it is always connected to my visit. In Culture in the Plural, Michel de Certeau notes that unless a group can convince wider society of the importance of its stance, it is doomed to merely be a ‘cultural’ issue forever. A folkloric and marginal matter that does not affect (or has no importance for) wider society, and is therefore politicly impotent. The group will remain at best a curiosity, always marginalised, with its voices mainly unheard. Of course, de Certeau was talking about the Bretons and the Basques, but his point is relevant for all those outside of mainstream hegemony who are trying for some kind of political impact. As I previously said, I
Going to Palestine in 2006 changed my life. It was an innocently motivated trip to see the ‘Holy Land’, as I was studying religions and had chosen to focus on the Abrahamic three. In this way, I was utterly unprepared for what I saw and experienced. Prior to going, I had taken only a passing interest in the horrendously difficult mess that is the Palestine / Israeli conflict, as it all seemed so politicised. I tend to shy away from politics, since it all feels like lies. But what I saw changed all of that. I came back promising myself that I must do something more to help the Palestinians than just writing about it and telling people what I saw. Largely, I suppose, I have failed that promise, aside from a half-hearted boycott of Israeli goods (I’m not entirely sure it is the right thing to do since many Palestinians
And so, the time has come to close out my feelings about my Israel / Palestine trip. I thought six entries for the six people in my travelling group was an appropriate place to stop. To try to lighten the load, I shall fill this with random memories of why, no matter how difficult and intense the trip was, I still wouldn’t change it for the world. I learnt a lot, just not what I expected. This is an entry for the fun and the laughter that we held onto, no matter what. Up until we went to the Dead Sea, I was convinced I would never step foot in that country again, but that day was such a pleasurable mix of emotions that I felt my stubborn head be swayed. We started the day at Qumran, and then walked, for what felt like hours in the searing 40/45 degree heat,