Monday, 24 March 2008

Feel The Heat (1)

Feel the heat.
(Tunes currently burning a hole in my speakers)

This section will be updated fortnightly providing a selection of my favourite tunes. Feel free to contribute as I am always on the lookout for new music. I hope that you will take the time to download a selection of this offering and play it loud.

1. Bongwater- Nick Cave Dolls
2. Slint-Good Morning Captain
3. John Cooper Clarke- Suspended Sentence
4. Heaven 17- We don’t need this Fascist Groove.
5. The Higgins-Conspiracy
6. Mudhoney-You Got It (Keep it out of my Face)
7. Sonic Youth-Silver Rocket
8. Nasum-Living Next Door to Malice.
9. Rush-Ceiling Unlimited
10. At The Gates- Slaughter The Soul


Sunday, 16 March 2008

Pumpin or Bumkin? Belfast 2008

Belfast was once a place that struck fear into the heart of most individuals, sending shuddering electrical signals of anxiety thundering through one's mind. It was a land of terror, a divided and backward place, with men in masks acting ruthlessly under the cover of night.

This place of unimaginable pain and intractable differences is where I call home, albeit with a jaded sense of national identity.

When one takes a look around society today, a landscape comes into view that is dramatically different culturally, politically, economically and socially than the one experienced as a teenager. Once bombing and shootings were a daily reality, but now seem like a speck of dust on the horizon.

Predictable partisan diatribes were chanted on the news by educated bigots in suits, now the same bigots are sitting in government together, sharing sofas and smiling for the cameras.

Belfast city centre was once the Beirut of Ireland, but now big business has replaced the checkpoints.

On the ground there is now less talk of 'sides' and distance between individual's eyes, but new forms of hatred have been substituted in place of the traditional, such as xenophobia and overt racism.

People appear on the surface better off economically, but has this quantative rise in living standards ushered in a happier and more stable society?

Is the country really advancing, or is Belfast just a modern pretender, lagging predictably behind the pack?

Something to think about.


Saturday, 15 March 2008

Beijing Feels The Squeeze

Lhasa, Tibet's capital is experiencing it's most sustained and violent episode in decades, with widespread anarchy on the streets of the spiritually enriched kingdom. Thousands have taken part in rioting in protest against all that represents the central Chinese government, who have been in control since the 1950 occupation. Demonstrators, beat and set fire to all representations of Chinese rule, cajoling the central government, directly challenging its authority in the "autonomous region." The upsurge in ill feeling and violence coinsides with the 40th anniversity of the attempted uprising by the Tibetan people in 1958, just 5 years after Tibet's inception into the Chinese empire. The timing could not be worse for Hu Jin Tao, with the Olympics only a matter of months away. This will see China surgically opened up for the world to see, albeit with ultra tight restrictions, and beautifully stage managed media control of information. The fact that 1 billion out of the 1.4 billion people in the nation live on a dollar a day or less will be hiden from view, instead the reflective, bright and shiny 'Scientific China' will be on desplay for the world to admire.

His Holyness the Dali Lama, has been in exile in India since the thwarted uprising in 1958 made a statement saying that this the events in Tibet were the result of 'increasing resentment of Han Chinese way of life.' His holyness who is a vocal critic of the Chinese government, wants to see Tibet regain its independence, and thus return to its traditional, spiritual way of living. The likelyhood of the central Chinese authorties allowing this to happen are slim to none. As with Taiwan, the Han Chinese have been indoctrinated into believing that these areas are rightfully theirs. Taiwan for instance, is referred to as the mainland's smaller brother by the Chinese. A country with such strong emphasis on family will ensure that this is one family that will not be separated easily. It is a time when nationalist sentiment is ripe for the picking, with the worlds' media firmly focused on Beijing. The Taiwanese government were one of the first critics to openly criticise the heavy handed tactics use to quell the violent demonstrations. One cant help thinking back to 1989, and Tiannamen Square where a bloodbath ensued under similar circumstances. Central government made a chilling statement, warning those involved in the violence have until Sunday at midnight to give themselves in to the authorties in return for a lighter punishment. It is unlikely that this will happen and only time can tell how the government and army will respond. Let's hope the history of 1989 does not repeat itself and that dialoge can take place. The likeihood of a amicable solution looks highly unlikely, with the Chinese government trying desperately to balance face, with new found international responsibility. Personally iI dont think that they are ready to meet this challenge yet.

Having spent two years living and working in 'The Middle Kingdom,' I have experienced at first hand the thoughts and opinions of the Chinese towards other ethic groups in China. One has to remember that the Han majority make up 90% of 1.4 billion people, leaving a massive minority. These people are not always treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve, especially the Tibitans and the Urger Muslims in the west of the country. The ambivalence felt towards these people stands in stark contrast to the offical 'One China' line that repeats out of Bejeing like a broken record. In fact you ask any man on the street about China today and you will the same reply continually. "China is a great country with 5000 years of history. Within our borders we have 56 ethic minorties." I lost count after a few weeks living in China how many times I heard this same line. People parroting this propaganda without ever considering the implications of the governments actions. In away it reminds me of a figure of speech that has crept into common useage here in Britain and Ireland. The phrase I am referring to is "Health and safety." This is another example of suptle propaganda in situ, parroted without the the slightest hint of understanding or examination. Phrase like this creep into the language of the people, weaving a insidious web of control, in which to trap citizens for purpose of control. Joseph Gobbels would have been very proud of such magistically adaptable newspeak.

What the nexy few days bring is in the hands of the Gods for the tibetan people. The very real possibilites of T-Square 2 are making dire headlines all over the world. The Taiwan independence situation is also one to watch. The reaction of the Chinese government is paramount, will they negotiate, or will trigger fingers be exercised with abandon? Only time will tell.

Zai Jian