January 1, 2014

Welcome to our friends from the East

Filed under: Human Rights,Nuclear Weapons,Politics — Traveller @ 6:00 pm

Thirty years ago I lived in a Nuclear First Strike Hotspot. Our home sat in the overlapping Soviet targets of RAF Greenham Common airbase with it’s US Cruise Missiles, Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, The Royal Ordinance Factory in Burghfield Common where the war heads for the Trident missiles are made and serviced and RAF Welford, reportedly the largest conventional arms dump in Europe. As Thatcher and Reagan ramped up the tension with the USSR and the Doomsday clock crept beyond five to midnight and towards Armageddon many of us considered our chances of survival. The government’s Protect and Survive leaflet designed to offer helpful advice to the populous in the event of a nuclear war dropped through every door. Seemingly drawn up by wildly optimistic DIY enthusiasts it contained plans for an inner shelter made from the interior doors of the house. It recommended painting the glass in the windows white and should anyone die from the effects of radiation after an attack they should be shoved outside. The sense of doom was hard to escape. My eldest son had nightmares about foreign soldiers coming to our village.

I began to rehearse my response to the future sight of the mushroom clouds on the road to home. Would I have time to get back to my family and spend those last moments together or if we were to survive, organise our shelter? If we were ever to face our adversaries it would be as an occupying force of Soviet Bloc troops… of Russians and perhaps Poles, East German, Ukrainians or Czechs… maybe even Romanians?

The years passed and a new age of youthful optimism blossomed in the East, the Berlin Wall fell and the streets of Prague sang to freedom and peace. People took to the streets and grasped at what had seemed impossible only a few years before; a united and peaceful Europe beyond the boundaries of the old Cold War battle lines. Though the growing pains have been intense with the conflicts that boiled to the surface along old ethnic lines for once we have a continent that seems less likely to rip itself apart.

And so as I witness the small minds and short memories of those who throw their arms up in anger at the prospect of more Romanian and other immigrants from the former Eastern Bloc coming here to work I am deeply dismayed. The petty prejudices and racist remarks that fill the media and the comment threads. Thirty years ago we stood on the brink of a conflict that could have incinerated us all, East and West or at best would have wiped out any vestige of the culture we call being British. Instead this is the Peace Dividend that back then we could only have hoped for. Living and working together for a better future in a united Europe. I welcome you friends from the East!

Ken Finn

January 8, 2013

Non Essential, Desirable and Damaging

“I don’t have a problem with anger, I have a problem with the things that make me angry, and I think the main problem I have is that most people – society in general – are not sufficiently angry about those things that upset me. That in itself makes me angry – a sort of latter-day angry young man.” Roger Deakin

There are times when a shared sentiment flies off the page. Reading ‘Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’ today this passage distiled what I’ve been feeling for such a long time. My own excitement of moving onto our smallholding, Harewood, has helped to keep the black moods at bay but never far from the Internet I am saddened by the continued obscene set of priorities of government and the propaganda dressed as news from a media that often seems to collude rather than challenge.

Simple truths that threaten to destroy us all hardly get a mention, a favourite slogan from the Occupy Movement goes ‘those who maintain that continued economic growth on a finite planet are either mad or an economist!’ As the obvious signs of depletion continue to become apparent our governments continue to maintain growth as priority over all else. And what is ‘all else’? It’s the engagement in the destruction of the last wilderness, the oceans and it’s coral wonders, forests, fish stocks, diversity and rare and wonderful people. If life on earth is possible without these things which I doubt, it won’t be life as we know it.

For instance in West Papua Indigenous people are subject to genocide, the eco-system is being decimated and most of that destruction is directly linked to the demand for the resources required to feed our behemoth consumer habit.

Watch this short film and tell me that you’d allow this in your name for growth, because this is what growth looks like. It may be happening a long way away but we’re up to our elbows in the blood.  Look into the eyes of Guru Jemaat Steve Su and tell me that 400,000 lives are worth the pursuit of growth; meat for hamburgers, nickel for cheap electronics, palm oil for bio fuels and the destruction of the forests and everything that lives in it..

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale. Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable).

Infact most of what we buy fits into a neat acronym NEDD, items the Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke say’s stands for  ‘non essential, desirable and damaging.’ Yesterday he introduced the Welfare Cash Card Bill to the commons to restrict the consumption of this stuff. Well actually not, its just another Tory government headline stealer. ‘No Booze and Sky for Shirkers!’ Designed once more to keep the focus on those who actually consume relatively little and whose footprint is tiny. I have no doubt that it will keep the middle England media enthralled while ‘the Strivers’  a group this government loves to bounce on it’s knee like a fat little baby will continue to strive for even more, whatever the consequences.

So am I wrong to be angry that our leaders don’t make it a daily duty to tell us there is a problem with our consumptive lifestyle in much the same way that they tell us at every turn that the Welfare State must be reformed? Am I wrong to be angry that millions have and will continue to die because of our economic model? Am I wrong to be angry that the very planet is at risk for the sake of stuff that will be discarded within days or months? Am I wrong to be angry that tomorrow’s headlines will be about shirkers?

You tell me.

Ken Finn

As a Postscript … The UK Guardian Newspaper published a telling graphic on how little of the current UK deficit is down to those un-employed and recieving Benefit… It’s a tiny percentage… Well, well at least one paper is telling it like it truly is. Check it Out

November 19, 2009

Carbon Pumping Label Junkies

Filed under: Climate Change,Human Rights — ken finn @ 11:39 am


We await the latest round of climate negotiations to begin in Copenhagen as if some great contest is about to begin. Who will blink, who will win the advantage? How far will they go and what is politically possible?  Somehow the whole concept is like a bunch of people in a hot tub arguing over who gets to defecate in the water and with what regularity.

At the heart of problem is the belief that we are separate from one another, that as individuals we are islands of consciousness that operate in an environment that begins at the outer layer of our skin. What’s inside is self and what’s outside is other. To navigate this world of separateness we attach labels to everything even the intangibles like faith.

Inside our skin we have labels for our sensations and the feelings they invoke and we have a mental map of how our body works too. We  know that our beating heart is separate from the functioning of our bowel or the workings of the brain but there is an understanding that all this is connected and interdependent.

Inside the body as far as I know there are no negotiations going on; the brain needs blood and the heart delivers. It’s in our nature to understand the interdependence of the system, that without a functioning brain our heart would also die. This service the heart offers to the brain may described as a transaction but it comes without condition for benefit of mutual survival.

Outside our body it seems that we have lost sight of our part in a larger interdependent system.  As a species we spread across the earth evolving along the way to meet the conditions that we found, we developed language and cultures to make sense of it all but a human heart is still a human heart. We have accepted the borders placed upon us that create countries, nationalities and differences but with human ingenuity a white man’s heart can be made to beat within a black man.

As humans we depend on one another for all sorts of services and we have an elaborate way of conducting them and negotiating advantage has become the prime motivator. Creating profit is king and separateness allows this to system to function, winners and losers are just more labels.

When it comes to saving our planet, using a system based on seeking advantage through ‘negotiation’ for our mutual survival  is bound to fail. It might be possible for rich countries to continue pooing in the hotub for a little longer at the expense of the developing world but at this rate we’re set to join the Dodo. Its pretty clear that the only process bound to succeed is one where a safe level of global emissions is set and we all get a carbon allowance.

In times of peril our perceptions of differences diminish and in the past we have come together to pitch for a common cause.  Its at moments like this that we should see beyond the borders of label and country and touch our commonality, the hopes for our children and grandchildren and the future of our world. In Copenhagen we need leadership not prevarication; cooperation not negotiation.

April 1, 2007

Chocolate Slaves

Filed under: Human Rights — ken finn @ 2:23 pm

Buy Fair Trade Chocolate

After a few weeks of soul searching and finger pointing by the media it’s clear that the nation is tainted by the slave trade.

From royalty and church to the benefactors of the industrial revolution we carry the guilt like a genetic trait. How we deal with the legacy of our genetics is the measure of our development, we can despise these historical lines within and without ourselves but what is done is done.

Today slavery is alive and well and permeates much of our lives. Modern slavery is under the wrappers of the cheap commodities we’re so addicted to. Next weekend for instance millions will devour tons of chocolate in the form of Easter eggs with much of it still contaminated by forced labour.

The best appolgy for the past is personal action today. Ask questions, buy fair trade, Resist Free Trade!

February 23, 2006

In Denial

Filed under: Human Rights — ken finn @ 4:41 pm

No Free Speach = No Truth 

I don’t have much sympathy for David Irving personally but the notion of banging someone up for challenging an accepted truth is ludicrous.

We take much of what is presented as news as the truth yet we know from experience that some stories turn out to be simple lies. The truth can take the knocks, if you scratch at the paint; you’ll only find the truth shines some more. To question the ‘Nazi Holocaust’ shouldn’t be a crime. It may seem an insult to the victims but a greater insult would be to foster an environment of passive acceptance.

Heavy-handed suppression of free speech and hate dressed as newsreel allowed millions to be murdered under Hitler. We must defend the right to express an opinion even if it is unpalatable right wing tosh.

BUT! If we’re committing those who ‘Deny’ to a few years in clink then top candidates must be President Bush and his experts for denying the potential Holocaust in the waiting, Climate Change.