Monday, 29 December 2014


     In 2014, Joan, my wife of 72 years, and I completed 95 journeys around the Sun, never finding answers to What, Where, When, Why, and How we happened to be trapped into this existence, thus mandating a 96th circuit during which we will try to be more diligent,  but can we ever understand those massive, hidden-but-controlling energies that force all of us into rather pointless, short-lived  journeys, never deviating from the same old route that takes 365 days to fly around the sun that takes 250 million years, even at 800,000 km/hr,  to circle our Milky Way galaxy that has its own circle to navigate?  In over 20 circuits since our galaxy formed we have yet to escape our spiral motion in the Orion arm.  Yet in our First Class (Developed World) section few of us go outdoors into darkened night skies to admire the view. There is a super first class, occupied by only a few who exert a controlling influence over us yet most have not really earned the right.  Most on board go steerage and they do see the view if not much else. 
         The stable period of our current solar system is good for a few more billion years, and for a few more centuries the major orbital, tilt, and precession cycles provide no threat.  But, as our Hindu beliefs and modern physicists tell us, everything is recycled forever throughout Time whatever that is.  I do know I need more of it. 
   Now this endless race of everything chasing around something else is quite invasive going all the way down from galaxies to atoms where electrons chase around nuclei.  If you care to go deeper into quarks, quantum, waves, and particles, you can escape this rotation but you find motions that imply we are really just holographs, so why bother with this essay?  That urge to finish what I start is bothersome and leads to an assessment of our ship and its passengers that include Homo sapiens, the only species, we believe, that can record, and learn from, History.
     The design of our spaceship with scattered resources and frequent climate changes is quite adequate for modest and mobile populations but promotes competition as birthrates rise. With each cruise our ship gets more crowded with millions of species all of whom, our species has determined, have a common ancestor but evolved differently into the niches they stumbled into, or made for themselves.  And, can you imagine the absurdity?  Most of us evolved so that we must daily kill and eat relatives in order to survive?  Also absurd is the fact that bacteria  learned to provide essential services so that larger life forms host them.  In individuals of the human species they make up 90% compared to 10% human cells. So, who is in the driver’s seat?  Where does consciousness lie?
     Competition created widespread opportunities for Greed to infect humans with a craving known as Much needs More.  Amazing how a few of those infected have been able to control their many, more-docile, brethren.  In pursuit of power humans have killed 4 billion humans in major wars and who knows how many more in minor disputes?  Empires are born, thrive, and dissipate.  Many factors contributed such as:  the export of grain technologies from Anatolia some 10,000 years ago permitted the rise of Egypt and other Middle East empires.  Later about 1600 AD the export of the potato from the South America Andes to poorly-fed Europe permitted the industrial revolution and the rise of European, and later American, empires.  Rising populations provided workmen and cannon fodder.
     Right now our species, that can probe the outer reaches of our galaxy and invent cell phones that can do everything except cook dinner, is dragging its feet on real problems like over population, military and economic persecution,  and climate change mainly because those who have the power to change are too comfortable with current, if futureless, conditions.  Nature has been the main culprit, but living things are also to blame.         Some 3.5 million years ago those remarkable, microscopic, cyanobacteria, who can manufacture their own food, but export poisonous oxygen forced us to adapt to using it as an essential gas.  Humans, likewise, with some 8 billion individuals and much more advanced and varied technologies, are saturating our fragile air and waters with poisons that dictate change too rapidly for us to evolve as simpler life forms did with Oxygen infusions.
     Like you, I am fallible and do make wrong interpretations.  Yet I can not agree when intelligent friends tell me I am bamboozled by scientists because climate change is natural with no impact from humans.   In my limited experience I have been in vast areas of Europe devastated by humans and have flown over vast areas now eye sores with the clear cutting of forests, interwoven with the extraction of oil and mineral wealth.  Also I have joined endless streams of motor vehicles spewing pollutants.  Now my Arctic and Polar regions, in and over which I had devoted 5 years, are melting dramatically.  When I add the fires, droughts, rising seas, and other weather catastrophes,  I fear too many humans are bent on their own destruction.   We have the ability to stop this.  Will we?
     So many humans, my age, knowing all this, just shrug their shoulders, sighing, “I am happy I am on the way out.”       Me?  I am just too damn stubborn, stupid, and much too young to give up so easily.  Per Ardua ad Astra (Through Difficulties to the Stars), motto of the Royal Air Forces, remains with me. 
      So much to do, so little Time.
Ye Olde Scribe

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


   I am thoroughly confused.
  My sincere desires to wish all of you out there a Merry Christmas are shattered when I am told I may not use those words anymore.  I must be careful to avoid offending non-Christians so “Happy Holidays” are now in vogue.
   So, what does that correct?   The Winter Solstice has long been associated with religious beliefs.  How about 25,000 years?  Did not early Christians, who did not have a clue as to when Jesus was born because the Roman census requiring families to register in their village of birth never was ordered and is a myth inserted by future writers of the Bible, steal December 25th from  the Romans who had already established it as a holiday?  But, did the Romans not steal it from the Etruscans, Celts, Franks. Gauls,  and all those others to whom they sought to bring the benefits of their rule?  If I use it I could be offending the Carthaginians, Parthians, Palestinians, Jews, and so on.
    If I cannot use Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, what words may I utter?
    Sure, there is “Happy New Year” - but, wait.  Not all of you share the same start date of each new year which means I cannot limit my good wishes to just this time of year.  Christian corporations are as varied on start dates as are other cultures.
   It really is rare and strange for me to find myself speechless.
   So, let me wish all of you PEACE and GOODWILL, whether you are religious or not, whether you can tell time or not, whether you are male or female, whether you are human or otherwise, and whether you were or are friend or foe.
   But now I am left somewhat sad, empty, and depressed.  Memories haunt me of all those Decembers of my childhood when I waited so impatiently for the wonders of Christmas Day.  And all that beautiful music overflowing with peace on earth.
  But there is a much sadder and deeper implant that, every December, forces me back to Durham and Yorkshire, especially at Croft where we sang, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” as we walked, often single file, down that long, long, foreboding path between the station proper and the distant dispersal points of our Wellington bombers.  Far too many of those I walked and sang "White Christmas" with, some 60% of us, never returned to collect their breakfast reward of a single egg and slice of bacon.  These treasures were reserved for those who survived a night of frolicking through unfriendly forests of flak and fighters.
   Emotions dictate that I shout, "To heck with current etiquette!  MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
   There, I said it! And that leaves me much happier as I suspect you do know that I really mean PEACE and GOODWILL.

  Ye Olde Scribe.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014


   From among the mountains of literature condemning the insanity of conflict, here is one I have liked since childhood.  It deals with the Russian-Turkish quarrels of the 1800s:

There are heroes in plenty
And well known to fame
In the ranks that are led by the Tsar.
But among the most famous
Of name or of fame
Was Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

    One day this bold Russian
Had shouldered his gun
And donned his most truculent sneer.
Down town he did go
Where he trod on the toe
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

“Young man,” said Abdul,
“Has life grown so dull
That you wish to end your career?
For by this I imply
You are going to die,
Mister Ivan Skivinski Skvar.”

Said Ivan, “My friend,
Your remarks in the end
Will avail you but little I fear.
For you will never survive 
To repeat them alive.
Mister Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.”

They fought all that night
‘Neath the pale polar light.
In the end it was heard from afar.
Great multitudes came
So great was the fame
Of Abdul and Ivan Skvar.

The Sultan drove by
In his cream-crested fly
Expecting the victor to cheer,
But only drew nigh
To hear the last sigh
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.

Tsar Petrovich too
In his spectacles flew
To arrive in his gold-crested car.
But arrived just in time
To exchange a last line
With Ivan Skivinsky Skvar.

For, as Abdul’s long knife
Was extracting a life,
In fact, he was yelling “Huzzah!”
When he felt himself struck
By that wily Kalmuck
Called Ivan Skivinski Skvar.

A monument rises
Where the Blue Danube rolls,
Engraved there in characters clear
‘Oh, Stranger, when passing,
Please pray for the soul
Of Abdul the Bulbul Ameer.’

A Muscovite maiden
Her lone vigil keeps
‘Neath the light of the pale polar star.
And the name that she murmurs,
So oft as she weeps,
Is Ivan Skvinski Skvar.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


     The Kurds, those gallant Sunni Muslims, and known today as Boots-on-the-Ground, are fighting those gosh-awful Sunni Muslims, known as the Islamic State, who, actually, are not  quite as bad as many the Kurds have fought in their past, only this time we have a stake, so we give the Kurds some air support while waving them on from the sidelines.  The IS is heavily armed with US equipment abandoned by a crumbling Iraqi Shia-Muslim army and financed by the captured oil they sell to a world where Greed trumps Ethics. Condensing Kurd history is impossible but I will try:
     Mostly Indo-European with a sprinkling of Semites, Kurds originated in the mountains south of the Caucasus and NW Persia (Iran) as a federation of a dozen tribal groups and a feeling of “Kurdiness” even though the name did not appear until 1000 BC in Assyrian documents as Kurkhi, but they received little press until 641 AD when  Muslim Arabs conquered much of their land resulting in a series of revolts that were put down, often with the mass extermination of survivors and complete destruction of buildings and crops.  Other Kurds became moderate Sunni Muslims.  Not until they produced S├╝leyman the Magnificent (Saladin, 1137-1193) and his powerful wife, Roxelana, were they recognized as a powerful entity.  In defeating the invading Christian Crusaders they were considerably more merciful to the defeated survivors than Crusaders had been in their victories.  They founded the Ayyubid Dynasty (1171-1250) and united all the Muslim areas in Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.  Their popularity grew as they were generous, virtuous, devoid of cruelty, but firm rulers.  Their sense of jihad was to extend their version of Islam by founding colleges and mosques, based on moral regeneration.  Saladin’s military strength grew as he disciplined, united, and reformed unruly groups as far away as Yemen.
    Like so many good things this was short lived as waves of Seljuk Turks swept out of the central Asian steppes, conquering Persia and Iraq while annexing Kurdish communities, creating Kurdistan.  But then Kurdish communities were evicted to be resettled in distant areas or completely massacred.  Ottoman Turks then prevailed but the Kurds suffered horrible persecution in Ottoman-Shia-Safavid wars.  Ottomans did massacre Kurdish-speaking Yazidis.
     In the War-to-end-all-wars, 1914-18, we good guys, mostly Christians, defeated those bad guys, mostly Sunni Muslims, known as the Ottoman Empire (1300-1922) that was made up of nine major religious/ethnic groups, including the Kurds, and numerous minor groups but counting them is harder than counting the stars in the sky.  In this empire there was a rare liking for diversity as everyone that was of the male gender had equal opportunity for employment, advancement, even in government and the mititary, and, like all other countries, the privilege to fight and die for one’s empire.  Women ?  Well, men were allowed up to 4 wives but 95% found that one was all they could handle.  Yes, the 1% did have harems but they could afford separate accommodations for them where they became quite influential in politics, architecture, creating welfare associations, and the like.  
    But, after 1919, some of us enjoyed believing we brought enlightenment and freedom and changed oppressive ways.  We also had economic and political well-being to consider.  Victorious nations, except for the Australians and New Zealanders, a valuable but uncontrollable lot, who got out of the way by going home, and, yes, the Canadians also left after leading the RAF squadrons helping the Whites in Crimea.  Those of us with the stamina to stay blessed the area by setting up independent countries from Algeria to Syria that, of course, had to be guided through the decades-long process of learning all about the benefits of western-style democracy.  The proper handling of natural assets, such as oil, needed our expertise and the guiding hand of capitalism.   Britain, France, and Italy were particularly generous in donating administrators and military forces.  But were not the Russians also our glorious allies?  Well yes, but they were quite busy deciding whether they wanted to be Red or White so we relieved them of their age-old headache of trying to find warm-water ports by creating buffer states.  The United States was slow to learn.  Failing to declare war on the Ottomans, their commercial interests became involved.  In 1858 Canada led in developing and exporting commercial oil expertise so was also capable of involvement.
     Like the Jews, the Kurds have retained their culture and longings for a homeland so are seen as a threat where they are now sizable minorities:  Turkey (18%), Iraq (17%), Iran (10%), and Syria (10%). When Armenia was part of the USSR, Kurds were a protected minority but lost all privileges when the USSR disintegrated.  In Azerbaijan many Kurdish areas were destroyed and 150,000 deported.  Kurds are also in Georgia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon, descendants of those fighting the Crusaders.  They still hold high offices in Iran which absorbed 1.5 million Iraqi Kurdish refugees.  Both Iran and Turkey have fought each other using their Kurds while assassinating uncooperative Kurdish leaders.  Having a superior record in human rights than many of us, the Kurds deserve better, but, like all the rest of us, they have their divisions such as KDP-1, Komalah, PKK, and PJAK.
     We have all contributed to an ungodly mess in the Middle East.  Can you suggest how I can possibly end this essay on a happy note?