Friday, 21 November 2008

Prostitution - making it legal!

Following on from the fine words of that great source of wisdom and obvious intellect (aka the Home Secretary) regarding her proposal that those who have sex with people who have been forced into prostitution will face prosecution, I have designed a questionnaire for those wishing to use prostitutes.

It ensures that before any sexual transaction is made the (potential) customer can be sure of:

i. The fact that they love their work and are doing it merely as a chosen career path,

ii. That any products used are, wherever possible, 'Fairtrade' and that any condoms, oils, leather goods or associated sexual apparatus all comes from fairly traded sources, and lastly

iii. The fact that confidentiality is guaranteed. After all, some people seem to think that the sex trade is damaging to those who purchase as much as those who supply. Some foolish people see such transaction as offered and taken up within a prostitution encounter as damaging to the well-being of both family and society and therefore working on a "what they don't know won't hurt them," is obviously the best option.

I have sent my questionnaire to the laudable Ms. Smith in the hope that she will have it read to her and perhaps even colour in the pictures I have helpfully included (taken from Richard Burton's fine "Kama Sutra - a children's colouring-in book!").

Let's hope we can move this forward and deal with the issue that really matter here. Or - we could just act against slavery, enforced labour and prostitution as areas that need attention, legislation and action of a joined-up kind

Having worked with, and knowing in the past, a number of prostitutes (male and female) it seems to me that the majority of those engaged in this, the oldest of professions, are forced into it by situation, circumstance and the like. Perhaps she'd like to see to it that those who cannot support their families by any other means have less need to engage in such an occupation by just and able government.

Then again, we could just buy another bank and continue to let those in the financial sector (and I don't mean the rank and file workers) believe that they have a right to the money and privilege that even now they continue to be afforded!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

We will remember them - But How?

I heard one of the members, Jonathan Bartley, of the group Ekklesia on the radio a couple of times over the Remembrance Day season. His thoughts can be found at A few thoughts regarding his words from that place. When Mr Bartley says:

"But Remembrance Sunday shows only too clearly that the double standards are still alive and well even today. According to ideas of just war – which most in the church would still subscribe to – war is always an evil, albeit sometimes a necessary one. But such is the Remembrance Day mantra, few can get away with articulating such beliefs without causing upset, outrage and disgust."

These words leave me just a little saddened for 'Just War' and rules of engagement and the realities that as Mr. B speaks of 'cause upset, outrage and disgust' are said by me every Remembrance Day and also during many training sessions with serving members of the forces and also with cadets. I also say this to, and in the company of, veterans. Perhaps it's not what he says but the way that he says it (or perhaps it's because I use the Queen's tailor?). So his reality is not mine and not that of many others whom I also know. Continuing, he says:

"Only the very brave would suggest from the pulpit that the dead might not all be ‘glorious’, that some might have died in vain, or that our recollections should encompass those that our country’s soldiers killed – even though that it what the Church is supposed to believe."

There are so many 'brave' people for I regularly do utter such words and have heard same from others in the pulpit. We do not glorify war and the response I had at a service last year when during the sermon I pointed out that the difference between war hero and criminal was sometimes merely which side one was on! Loads of old sweats came up and said how true it was and how the thin veneer of civilisation and humanity was tested in true conflict.

It is not what the "church is supposed to believe," but (in my experience) what it does believe and say and act with and is uppermost and most visible in our words and minds.

"A few weeks ago I found myself doing a radio interview with a war veteran who wanted a campaign medal to be given to Bomber Command. Bomber Command, and those involved with it had never received one. The reason, he said, was that the carpet bombing that they had been ordered to undertake in World War Two had been considered by many shameful and embarrassing. They had been quietly forgotten and pushed to one side."

Forgotten by whom? Pushed aside and quietly ignored?

It hasn't been forgotten and it still lives in the memories of those who were doing it. My Father was in Bomber Command and I realised from his stories that as he flew over Germany dropping bombs they were most unsportingly trying to kill him. Also whilst he was over Dresden, my Nan was hiding under a table as the Germans played the same song. Harris engaged in what I would call 'disproportionate' action, but hopefully war then is not the same as war now and if people like me act in consort with others, it won't be!

The carpet bombing was not popular (so Dad said) but then it wasn't too well received in London, Coventry, Liverpool (there's a long list of places Goering's chaps visited!) etc.

"The 50,000 aircrews and personnel who died, need a proper memorial. They should be remembered. And perhaps it is the church’s role to make sure that people like those, whose story has been marginalised, continues to be told.

But it is also important that their actions and the consequences should be remembered, - openly and honestly. We should recall that in a few nights of bombing, a similar number - 50,000 but this time civilians - were burned alive in the firestorm at Dresden."

I agree with some of the words the bloke has uttered, but at the end of the day it seems, sadly, to be yet another affair of the (bleeding) heart and after we've apologised to all blacks for slavery, the All-Blacks for winning the Rugby World Cup, witches for burning them and any other group for some contemporary bleeding for acts long gone, we can realise what we are saying and resolve to look forward and act (as I do in my role) rather than back and shake the boxes.

When Mr. Bartley says, "The church is uniquely placed to bring such a perspective. Its new position in post-Christendom may call it to have less focus on the nation state, and call society to a broader view to remember both friends and enemies."

He is right and we, the church and the Church, do use that place. We do not (in my experience) glorify war, nor do we condone or sweep under the carpet but seek to speak truth in love, expose error and fault in ways that lead us to a better place and stand for love and truth, compassion and mercy and the cross of Christ.

"If we accept the Remembrance Day rhetoric, that soldiers laid down their lives to give us the liberties we enjoy today, then surely that must include the freedom to choose how we remember the dead, and say what we believe? Indeed, it does a disservice to their memory not to allow such choice and conscience to be expressed."

And as they are - a good piece in all from Mr. B. and one that knows it will get the air time because it's released at the right time and will, as his words in interview did, lead to contentious and troubling reception. The final drumbeats sound as he says . . 

"Remembrance Sunday needs to experience the liberation to which is pays lip service. The church should be the freedom fighter to bring it. But in the absence of a few more Runcies, the tyranny of partial remembrance looks set to continue its reign for a while yet."

Pity he blows it at the end as "Land of Hope and Glory," ring in his ears. He is the sole arbiter and champion of all that is moral, honest and decent - The Church (universal) and the CofE like the forces of many nations IS a body that seeks liberation and freedom from oppression. It does experience, live and extend to others the very liberation spoken of as wanting. Perhaps we see a man seeing what he doesn't want to see and disregarding the rest?

We will not only remember them, but will work to ensure those who have gone leave a better future and reality for those who live and serve today.

Monday, 10 November 2008

49 Inkerman Battery, Royal Artillery

I was recently given the honour and privilege of presiding at a joint remembrance and Inkerman Day service at the National Memorial Arboretum. (Inkerman day being the fifth of November).

During the short service where we paid respect to those of the battery, the Royal Artillery and all who have, did and do serve, surrounded by the many names of those who have given their lives for this country, I realised how much we owe to the passing generations in honouring their efforts.

Some went, though they did not want to. Some went willingly and keenly, up for the fight and ready to engage the enemy. All who returned were changed and touched by their experience. At the end of the service we stood to the strains of "I'll see you in my dreams," and many a mind's eye was cast back to some silly sod standing by a field piece, in a trench or some other absurd place doing a soft shoe shuffle whilst it was sung or played on some available instrument (how did they manage to take their ukes? Mouth Organs and harmonicas I can understand but brass and strings taken to war, beggars belief).

I was reminded of Siegfried Sassoon's poem, everyone sang:

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight as a prisoner must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white orchards and dark-green fields;
On, on, and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun;
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror drifted away
O, but everyone was a bird;
And the song was wordless;
The singing will never be done.

Dona Eis Requiem