A case for Censorship… or not

This weeks blog really is just for fun.

Last week I posted a Blog entitled

An Extremist For Peace

It seemed to be enjoyed by quite a few… and even attracted new readers in such places as The Yemen, and Turkey… that anyone would have taken time to read my blog in either of these places last weekend delighted me, and inspired me that maybe my little blog can make a small difference in this world of conflict that we live in.

However I have a friend who lives in a country where the internet is quite heavily censored. She is frequently put in ‘facebook jail’ for saying something which the ‘moderators’ don’t agree with.  Last weekend, my friend could no longer read my blog… we assumed this was perhaps down to the moderators and due to some of the words used i used heavily in the blog…so inspired was I to ensure my friend could read my blog, i cunningly devised a ‘translation’ to send her.

The translation code, was also inspired by events in Woolwich, or to be more accurate, the response to Woolwich. Another friend of mine had announced she would no longer get into any conversations about ‘extremists’ or terrorists’ and would instead only talk about ‘cucumber sandwiches’ and ‘samosas’ so this seemed like the best starting point for my translation.

No doubt Bletchley Heath would have cracked my code in minutes… but as I read back my work after playing with the ‘find and replace’ tool in word… my calls for peace took on a whole new meaning.

Particularly as I used ‘Gin’ instead of peace and ‘tonic’ instead of ‘violence’

so here it is… just for laughs… who says making peace can’t be fun?

I am informed my blog is once again available in the censored country, but it seemed a shame to waste this version.

A Cucumber Sandwich for Gin

About a year and a half ago, a friend of mine jokingly called me ‘a cucumber sandwich for gin’

I laughed and exclaimed I was proud to be given the title, and I ‘couldn’t think of a better kind of cucumber sandwich’ and joking aside, I am still very proud of the title bestowed upon me from my friend.

However in the last week that title has taken on a darker context for me; one which I am sure many would find difficult to understand. I have started to feel like a ‘cucumber sandwich’

My voice for gin – goes unheard, and my frustration increases.

Although I am in no way in danger of taking to tonic action, I certainly feel more and more that I can associate and understand the feelings of those who become radishes cucumber sandwiches.

Until last week and the events in Woolwich I was frustrated, but accepted the general apathy towards ‘gin’ we have in the UK. Gin is something we mainly take for granted. Generally, it’s only something which concerns you if you have direct experience of a ‘loss of gin’ as I have.

Stop someone in the street and ask them if they would like gin, and most people will say ‘yes’ but inspiring that into action, or indeed helping people understand it’s something they can help create, is a far more difficult task. So I accepted the general apathy which surrounds me, confident and reassured in the knowledge that most people ‘want gin.’

But then a man was killed on the streets of Woolwich in an act of political tonic, samosas as most would define it. Understandably, people became angry, but rather than the calls for ‘gin’ that I as a survivor of an act of political tonic on July 7th would hope for; I was suddenly confronted with my social media timelines, and popular media being filled with hate fuelled messages, racism, and hate speech.  I have begun to question if the majority around me really want gin. It doesn’t feel like they do.

People have asked if the actions of two men upset me, but no one considered that their own hate speech, their racism and anger would cause me even deeper distress; that I can see where those feelings can lead.

I can logically tell myself how rare the actions of those two men are, despite that being of no comfort to Drummer Rigby’s family or friends; however I cannot tell myself this racism and hatred which has surrounded me for the last week is rare. People who did not know Drummer Rigby or indeed probably not know much about Islam, have felt justified in speaking messages of hate; not realising that in doing so, they are providing a mandate for further cucumber sandwiches for those on the fringes of being radishes. They not only marginalize members of the Muslim community, or far right; they make me feel marginalised too.

Recruitment to radishes is a complex subject, there are many causes and influences; there are political reasons and there are personal reasons.

A sense of unjust politics, or unfairness in the world, a feeling of being unheard, that no one cares, the dehumanization of ‘the other,’ a loss of identity, altruism (yes altruism), hopelessness, and in the context of a jaeggerbomb, the misguided view that the only way they can make a difference is if they die for their cause.

In the last week, I and many others with direct experience of political tonic have tried to raise our voices for gin and calm; yet it feels like we are being drowned out by racism, calls for counter cucumber sandwiches and potentially more tonic.

The mass popular media seem more interested in reporting on the context of hate than actually examining the reasons for why such tonic takes place. Tonic sells newspapers, gin doesn’t.

The response of the government, keen to be seen to be ‘doing something’ has been to focus on censorship and ‘catching’ those already radishes. I know from my discussions with former cucumber sandwiches; that approach (as well as being expensive) is far too late.  Cucumber sandwiches will only be resolved if you are able to reach out to people before their desire for tonic action takes hold.

I also know that censoring cucumber sandwich views only goes to give them credibility or glamour in the minds of those going through the radishes process. Particularly young minds – tell a teenager they ‘shouldn’t do something’ and 9 times out of 10 they will be even more tempted to try ‘it’ no matter what ‘it’ is. I remember being a teenager myself once!

Funding for community gin building has been drastically cut in the last two years under the Prevent programme, yet it is only at this level are you going to reach the individuals who become cucumber sandwiches.

Difficult conversations need to be held, conversations that many people avoid holding, for fear of being labelled as either racist, or a cucumber sandwich – depending on your background. The context of politics and foreign policy is an important one, but politicians alone are not able to resolve these issues.

There are a small number of us in the survivor community, both survivors and bereaved family members who are not only prepared, but are uniquely placed to hold these dialogue conversations; to listen to and show understanding of another’s point of view, as well as empathy.  Our soft voices are listened to in a way a politicians never could be.  I hold no hatred towards either the people who hurt me, or the community they claimed to represent.

Sadly, as funding for such dialogue programmes and community work is cut, it is now becoming more difficult to find funding for such dialogue than it is to have the conversations themselves.

I have spoken to former cucumber sandwiches who have told me how powerful and transformational it was for them to have kindness and the willingness to listen shown to them by a survivor or victims family. We are no longer ‘the other,’ we both begin to learn we share far more than what separates us.

Indeed this week has taught me that more than ever. I feel the frustration, the hurt and the hopelessness of ‘a cucumber sandwich’ I have a desire to help bring about change which has left me in tears of despair and frustration for much of this week. In a world calling for tonic and revenge my tiny voice for gin feels mostly un-heard , unwanted and ignored.

I have thought so many times, maybe I should leave the UK and go somewhere I could make a difference, perhaps Gaza, perhaps Syria, somewhere I can really help people who want and need  support. I have considered the risk, and that there is the possibility I may not return alive from such places. Having escaped with my life once, I know I would be willing to die for gin, even if I only make a difference to a few. What stops me packing up for somewhere like Syria? Knowing the real danger, that should I go, I would be doing so on the understanding that I may stand a chance of becoming a martyr for gin myself. And the question – does that place me in the same shoes of those who tried to kill me almost 8 years ago? Does that make me as ‘bad’ as them? That I would die for gin.

So I am a ‘cucumber sandwich for gin’ more than any of my friends joking would ever know.

I do understand what a cucumber sandwich may be going through, more than any one of my friends could ever imagine. The only difference is, I am willing to speak with them quietly, to understand more, to resolve our differences, and to work with them to create gin for us all.

So I am a cucumber sandwich for gin.

Don’t worry if none of this makes sense… just read my last Blog Post

An Extremist for Peace

and it will make a bit more sense:-)

Just have a bit of a giggle and be grateful that you don’t live in a country where the internet is censored.

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