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Sunday, May 29, 2016

June: The Month of major decisions

This June will see three momentous decisions taken by voters. June the 23rd will see voters in a referendum in the United Kingdom decide whether they want to remain in the EU club, or whether they prefer to leave and go it alone.

This is a highly extraordinary consideration for a country that prefers tradition to change. There are people in Britain who still prefer to conduct all their communications through the snail mail of the Post Office. They are being asked to vote their opinion on whether to continue life as it is, or whether to jump off a cliff  to see what happens after that.

Scotland recently went through a referendum on whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or to stand alone. That country decided that tradition ruled. At this point there simply is no way for anyone to have confidence in a prediction of how it will turn out. Fundamentally, there are two sides to the question, and both sides are entirely reasonable. On the one hand there is the economic and security case that states that Britain is much better off in staying where it is.

As members of a club, presumably there are benefits to be had for being a club member in the first place. In Britain's case there are. The club consists of 500 million people with whom to trade. Britain is an important member of the club and enjoys preferential treatment. It seems that the cost of membership must be worth it, otherwise I would have expected Britain to have quit a long time ago, were it not so. The people who take the position to stay in are mainly the elite ruling class.

The other position is social and personal. Britain continuously finds Brussels interfering in it's affairs. Unelected officials constantly stand in the way of the British way of life causing outrage throughout the country. What we see is a clash of cultures and complete, and some say, deliberate  misunderstanding of how the British prefer to do things. This comes at the same time as Britain has to absorb immigrants from the former colonies which is placing enough strain on the English man and woman in the street. Voters in this group find the whole question highly emotive and may not be thinking all that clearly if they are being guided by their emotions.

One of the very big questions is should Britain decide to elect the Out option, what will happen to those people from the Continent who are in Britain at the moment, and, of course what will happen to the millions of Brits who are on the Continent. For those countries that host British pensioners who receive money from Britain, I imagine they will not be so keen to see them return to Britain, nor will they want to see their own nationals sent back.

One prediction that will most likely come true is that voting will see a very high turn out.

On June 26th, voting will take place again in Spain to try and form a government. We tried that last November and it ended with a hung system. The old system of interchange of the two dominant parties was broken because of corruption within the system that seems to have been ever present. That led to a disastrous situation for the country, and gave rise to the young warriors who want the old guard gone. The court system is clogged with so many political cases of corruption it is easy to see what they mean.

The country has been without an active government since it first tried to put in place a governing party, and in spite of several attempts to form a  coalition that has not been possible. So, if at first we didn't succeed, we need to try again; and if not then, we will try yet again.

The third important vote will take place in my own country of Bermuda on June 23rd, where the referendum will decide whether to respect the right of gay people to happiness by being married to one another, either in church ceremonies or in civil unions. This is just as important as the other two decisions to be made as we live in a modern world  of live, and let live.

There are some countries where gay people are killed. That says nothing about the gay person but a whole lot about the killers, nothing of which is good.  Bermuda is, in so many ways a country to be envied. The literacy rate is near 100% and a great number of people live very well. A lot of people argue the case against gays and lesbians by citing the bible, but if God is responsible for creating mankind, if some of mankind have a sexual orientation toward one another, then that's the way God made them. Enough said!

The reason I'm thinking about these three significant voter exercises is that for one reason or another I either cannot, or am not allowed to vote in any of the exercises, but at least in two of the three the outcome will have a direct impact on my life.

That's sort of like having taxation without representation.

Copyright (c) 2016
Eugene Carmichael

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What all immigrants really think.

I overheard a British man at the next table telling his friends that he had left Britain and come to Spain because he could no longer  abide the fact that the country was becoming overrun by Muslim immigrants. They had come into the country in droves, and they insisted on carrying on their way of life, instead of  integrating into the English way.

He felt that it was just too much that they insisted on speaking in Arabic; they did not socially mix with  English society, and that in fact they were a nation within a nation.

I thought, if only you could hear what the Spanish are saying about the British impact in Spain.

The man did have a point. He was describing how the world has always worked to cross pollinate cultures around the world. Stronger nations deliberately invaded other weaker nations and colonised and exploited them. The weaker nations even benefited by learning of new ways to do things. Britain was the country who boasted that they had invaded so many countries that the sun never set on their empire, and India was the jewel in the crown.

It didn't seem to occur to Britain that in invading a country that belonged to other people was wrong in principle. The only thing that made it right was might. The problem with that was once having taken over someone's country the population became awakened and aware of the existence of what was referred to as the Mother Land. It was only natural that in the fullness of time people would want to visit the invader's home.

Just as British invaders spoke their own language and practised their own customs and religion,  so it is with even mere tourists. Very few people deliberately make the effort to change their own customs to adopt those of the host country. A person's way of life is what they know and is who they are. Also, we tend to think that our way is best, so why change.

British Muslims appear to find life in England more to their liking as they are able to practise their religion freely, which is not always the case in their homelands. However, they don't want to be Englishmen and Englishwomen. Some have arrived in England due to escape from persecution, and having had their lives interrupted they now simply want to continue on as before.

I am one of the few people I know who consciously make the effort to integrate totally into the culture of Spain. That is because I freely made to decision to move here because I fell in love with Spain and her people. I think the Spanish way of life is wonderful and I have chosen to adopt it for myself. It also helps that a Spanish explorer first discovered Bermuda, which is where the name comes from: Juan de Bermudez. The Spanish crown decided it did not have an interest in maintaining its claim to the island, and so it left Bermuda to be re-discovered by someone else. That person was Sir George Somers who claimed it for the British Throne.

I always wondered what life would have been like for me had Spain retained its right to the territory. I'm here finding out, and I'm not disappointed.

Meanwhile, life goes on in the United Kingdom as a rainbow of immigrants continue to come and go, and the country becomes more diversified as a result. Old-time Brits may indeed take umbrage with the changes, but it is the way of the world.

Nothing stands absolutely still. We are moving ahead or falling behind but change is relentless!

Copyright (c) 2016
Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eurovision Time Again

More and more people are turning off to Eurovision for one reason or another, but I also suspect that the programme is drawing far more people than it repulses. It started as a contest between the nations of Europe but now, Russia, Australia and The Ukraine have become involved. In my house I was keen to watch and my wife was not. Just as well we have two televisions and they are not within sound of one another.

The contest is between twenty-six contestants, so we sit through 26 songs. It becomes immediately clear that most singers have lost the plot because they present  songs that are nice, and album ready, but in order to be in  the running your song has to be different than something average and has to incorporate a few highly essential elements: It has to have visual appeal other than what the technicians produce. The favorite to win last night was Russia because the stagecraft and special effects were absolutely superb. I have never seen anything like it, and if there were a special category for that it would have won. However, the song itself, sung without the special effects was ordinary.

A good example was the year that the man who presented himself as a woman, complete with beard was an image that drew our attention and never let go.

The song must be intelligent, passionate, and have a clear message.The rest is completely up to the singer in the presentation of the song. A singer who has been trained for the opera and who has power to reach the high notes in crystal clear fashion is bound to impress. That was the case with the afore-mentioned man, which is why he won that year.

I sat through the songs, and to be honest I enjoyed each one, but then I turned off as I chose not to sit through the tedious voting. They say that Eurovision is not political, but it is with countries giving their biggest vote to their neighbours, and nobody voting for Britain.

As I turned away from the programme my projections and opinions were as follows: Russia would probably win, but it shouldn't for the reasons given above.

My home country of Spain produced a lively and world-class entry that had the audience bouncing in the aisles, and I was proud of  the presentation, however, it was unlikely we would win.

The very last song was that from Armenia and it was the most original. It certainly took my attention and I would like to hear it again. Kudos to the singer and her team. It should have been the one to beat and therefore should have rated high on points.

The one song that totally moved me was the song from The Ukraine. The staging was superb but the song itself embodied the heart of a hurt nation that had been invaded by Russia which has inflicted serious pain on its people, simply because they wanted to turn away from their brutal neighbour and to move closer to the West. I knew the history, as we all do, and I heard the cry of an oppressed people, loud and clear.

I declared that was the song that would have my vote to win because it had it all.

And the winner was: Ukraine ! Bravo!

The Eurovision song contest! Long may it continue!

Copyright (c) 2016
Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, May 8, 2016

On writing a book

I have chosen this topic because I have written a book which is now going through the publishing phase.  It is my first book and I hope to hold a big launch for it soon. I have learnt many things about such an undertaking, and the most important lesson learnt is: the easiest thing to do is to write the book. Now comes the hard part.

Firstly, I wouldn't like to guess the number of titles in English that exist. A person, such as myself has a book in my head and I decide to sit down and put my thoughts in written form. When that is completed I sit back and am well pleased with myself that the project is done. This will be a subjective work that usually involves immense research and effort, so it's not difficult to see that the author will be proud of himself. However, will anyone at all have any interest in what has been produced? Will anybody actually pay a farthing to buy your tome?

This is where things start to really get complicated!

Our first thoughts are to submit our precious manuscript to literary agents who, we hope will see the merit in what we have writ, and of course they will want to represent our submission as the next great work of written art.

JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, submitted her first manuscript to twelve agencies. Harry Potter is a children's fictional story and most agencies used to say that they had no interest in either fiction or children's stories, or both. On her thirteenth try the agent had a young daughter to whom he passed the manuscript. The child wouldn't put it down.

The rest of that story is that JK Rowling has sold more than 400 million of the books. To put that into perspective she has sold one to absolutely everybody in The United States of America and Canada, combined. The world's most successful writer was sent away by twelve of the very same people who are supposed to be on the lookout for just such a talent. I hope those people are doing something else for a living now.

Not only did she get children all around the word to actually read, each book has been turned into a movie, and now the Harry Potter concept has been made into a Theme Park.

To be a literary agent must be the most difficult form of work there is. Firstly most agencies receive so many submissions that they aren't even able to send out rejection letters. It takes them ages to even get to what you have sent, and they get annoyed to know that you have sent out several submissions to every agent there is. "We don't like to think we are part of a beauty parade," they say.

I received one rejection letter that I appreciated from an agent who said that she was sorry but that they had elected not to represent me as they have to absolutely love the books they choose. It is a highly subjective business to be in, and I understand that, but there will be some books that no-one will actually love, but because of their message they will be commercial successes.

My book will fall into that category. I have been forced into self-publishing, which means I get to keep the agent's 20%, so wish me luck and watch this space. I hope and expect to hold a Launch Announcement in the very near future.

Copyright (c) 2016
Eugene Carmichael

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sins of the Sons

It's usually the poor children who have to live under the shadow of the misdeeds of the parents. A child grows up with his father in jail for having done this or that. The other school children learn of this and the child becomes the focus of bullying. There have been many fathers who have been executed for murdering others, and you wonder how that affects the life of a child.

I once knew a young man who was simply the nephew of a notorious killer. He once told me that he was thinking of changing his last name, although he never actually did it because it was kind of common. Still, he felt that people always wondered whether he was related.

Times have changed and the world has been shocked by some over the top horrible events committed by young people. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Traditionally, parents stand by their children and hope to be made proud by their achievements. Instead, in far too many cases the child goes off and does something that is so horrible as to defy logic.

I'm thinking of the child who took his mother's guns and went to school and shot and killed a number of fellow students who were very young, and their teachers. We never hear how the parent copes with that. Then there was that absolute cretin who was a co-pilot of a passenger plane who decided that he would end his life, and deliberately took everyone on board with him. His parents were perfectly ordinary people, but he leaves them to cope with that. How!

Another young man walked into a black church and joined in bible study and prayer with the group  before opening fire and killing everybody. Why? His parents are left to explain the actions of their son. The strange thing about that was that the relatives of those killed declared that they forgave the killer. I know they meant well but that seemed to me to make a bad situation worse.

There are far too many cases of young people from good families who leave home to make their way to Syria to fight with ISIL. They engage in killings in the most barbaric manner while back home parents and relatives no longer can bring themselves to watch the news for fear of what they may see.

Two young men in the heart of London, in broad daylight while the public looked on, attacked and savagely killed a man who was a band member of a military brigade, simply because they wanted to make some insane comment. They have parents. Do those parents agree with their actions or are they hiding their faces in shame. They should be!

If you are parents and your children are making you proud, count your blessings. There are some parents who are unable to do that because of the actions of their offspring.

I include in that statement the many parents, and brothers and sisters who have been killed by one of their own. What the hell has this world descended into?

Copyright (c) 2016
Eugene Carmichael