Saturday, 14 February 2009

A "Christian" Rock concert

So I spent some time at my Church, (St. Boniface, Siesta Key, Sarasota, FL) for their “Christian Rock” blast this afternoon.

for the line up.

I was there long enough to hear “Traphik” and “Horizons Fall”.

Traphik was squeakily clean. The band members were lovely, gentle, earnest, beautifully dressed - and not very good.

I liked them, and treated then to hot dogs and hamburgers after their gig.

Horizons Fall was more like the real thing. Their music was sensual and passionate. The band members performed with their voices and instruments, but also with their bodies.

Isn’t that what rock is all about? Isn’t that what Christian faith is all about?

“Voices, instruments and bodies”. That is my kind of Christian worship!

After Horizons Fall, this old fart had had enough. He is far more comfortable with opera, ballet and symphony!

He (I) was sorry that the audience was “sparse” to say the least.

I suspect that was for two reasons.

First: the event took place in St. Boniface’s lovely quadrangle – way back from the street. If it had been in the street-side parking lot many passers-by might have stopped,

Second: an event planned for “20 something” people is not likely to succeed if it is slated for 2:00 p.m. At that hour they are scarcely out of bed!

Having said that I add that “failure” should not be part of the Christian vocabulary. This event was not a failure.

Kudos to David and Andrea for their vision and work.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Churchill's Black Dog

Winston Churchill referred to his “Black Dog”, i.e. the depression which was his lifelong companion.

He spoke of not wanting to be close to the tracks/lines when an Express train raced through a Railway Station, or to close to the edge of a ship on which he was sailing - just in case.

Although I’ve not had these particular concerns (i,e, I have never been suicidal), I have experienced depression as a lifelong visitor.

It usually comes at this time of the year – January through March, just when the days are getting longer and spring is on the cusp. So it is not the depression which comes from winter’s light deprivation.

But at this time of the year, my own black dog visits. He/she wants me to isolate, and to ignore friends an colleagues.

She/he assures me that all my life has been in vain, and that none of my friends are true.

My black dog has a companion of mild paranoia.

I write this - not for your sympathy or concern. I will be alright come April

But I write so that those of you who know the black dog will also know that you are alone.

Here is a paper which suggests that Churchill may have been manic depressive. No-one knows for this paper is based on anecdotes, and not on a clinical diagnosis.
But I “identify” - as you also may.

Lest this post seems to be too gloomy, here is an example of Churchillian humour to brighten our days!

"Lousy" as a Parliamentary Expression

The Minister of Fuel and Power, Hugh Gaitskell, later Attlee's successor as leader of the Labour Party, advocated saving energy by taking fewer baths: (he said) "Personally, I have never had a great many baths myself, and I can assure those who are in the habit of having a great many that it does not make a great difference to their health if they have less."

This was too much for Churchill, a renowned bather:

"When Ministers of the Crown speak like this on behalf of HM Government, the Prime Minister and his friends have no need to wonder why they are getting increasingly into bad odour.

I have even asked myself, when meditating upon these points, whether you, Mr. Speaker, would admit the word 'lousy' as a Parliamentary expression in referring to the Administration, provided, of course, it was not intended in a contemptuous sense but purely as one of factual narration."

Thursday, 12 February 2009


No blog today.

I am tired and I wanna go to bed!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A post script re British politics and the movements for workers

The old U.K Tory Party would end its annual conferences by singing this:

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,

How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?

Wider still, and wider, shall thy bounds be set;

God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet!

The music to which the words of "Land of hope and glory, &c” are set is the Trio theme from Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.

Americans usually call this music “Pomp and Circumstance” : they know it well as it is traditionally played at High School and College graduation ceremonies.

Smart-assed British people, such as I, know that the music is but one of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance Marches”.

Perhaps we’ll all agree that the words are pompous, arrogant and jingoistic.

Such was the world of the U.K.’s first 20th Century Monarch, Edward VII (son of Queen Victoria).

And such is still the world of modern day U.K. Tories.


Meanwhile, the Labour Party conferences would end with the singing of the following, set to the tune which we know as “O Tannenbaum” (or “O Christmas Tree”)

1.The worker's flag is deepest red

It shrouded oft our martyred dead;

And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold

Their life-blood dyed its every fold.


Then raise the scarlet standard high

!Beneath its folds we'll live and die.

Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer

We'll keep the red flag flying here.

2. Look 'round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,

The sturdy German chants its praise,

In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung

Chicago swells the surging song.

Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,

This song shall be our parting hymn.


3. It waved above our infant might

When all ahead seemed dark as night.

It witnessed many a deed and vow,

We will not change its color now.


4. It suits today the meek and base,

Whose minds are fixed on self and place,

To cringe beneath the rich man's frown,

And haul that sacred emblem down.


5. With heads uncovered swear we all

To bear it onward till we fall;

Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,

This song shall be our parting hymn.


These are stirring words indeed, tailor made for an old lefty such as I. But the New Labour leaders such as the dreadful Tony Blair would sing the word with great embarrassment. For they were no longer the party of the workers - more is the pity.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Zenith of Labour Party rule. (End of series)

In 1945, just three weeks after V.E. (Victory in Europe) Day, the Labour Party left the war time coalition government, this necessitating a General Election.

The swing to Labour was unprecedented, and the party then held a majority of 146 seats in the House of Commons.

Winston Churchill was rejected by the electorate. He was seen as a great War time leader, but as a man who was ill-fitted to lead a post war nation.

(Working people had not forgotten that before the War, Churchill had always opposed their best interests. They saw also through his foolish statement that if Labour were elected it would need a “Gestapo” to enforce democratic socialism.)

Clement Atlee (deputy Prime Minister in the coalition government) became Prime Minister.

(Many historians suggest that he was shocked and surprised to find himself in this role).

The Labour Government enacted a great programme of reform which became the norm in British political and national life until the election of 1979 when Margaret Thatcher became Premier.

LABOUR 1945-50 succeeded in the following areas:

1. Public ownership of fuel and power generation and delivery (gas and electricity); and of transportation within the United Kingdom (railways, buses, freight).

2. A massive program of public housing projects.

3. An expansion of free public education.

4. The creation of a National Health system.

5. The creation of “cradle to grave” public welfare/social security.

“Maggie” Thatcher “undid” most of this.

Now I write more personally.

Public ownership of the means of production (coal, gas, electricity) was the norm as I grew up. We received electricity from the South Western Electricity Board; gas from the South Western Gas Board; and we knew that coal was mined under the National Coal Board.

The railways were run by “British Railways”, the buses by a publicly owned Corporation, and road freight was transported via “British Road Services”.

These enterprises may not have been the most efficient, and they were most certainly overlaid with bureaucracy, but I am not too certain that their “privatised” (the Maggie Thatcher way) successors have provided better services.

Since my parents were buying their own home I was not affected by the construction of public housing.

I was and am a direct beneficiary of Labour’s expansion of free public education; of a national health service, and of public welfare/social security.


Mum and Dad weaned me with their heroes of 1945-1950.

They were all males (that’s how it was “back then”).

The heroes are mine too. Men such as Clement Atlee, Herbert Morrison, Sir Stafford Cripps, Ernie Bevin ( a Bristol boy), Manny Shinwell, Hugh Gaitskell, and the very great Aneurin (“Nye”) Bevan.

(Do feel free to do your own Google searches on these fine men.)

And read, if you will, the Labour Party manifesto - set forth when I was but one year old.

Monday, 9 February 2009

The Labour Party after Keir Hardie

After Keir Hardie, the Labour Party lost its way.

By 1910, (about the time that my Dad was born), Labour held 42 seats in the British Parliament.

And in the 1924 General Election they won 191 seats. Although this was not enough to provide a Parliamentary majority, Labour, under their new Leader, Ramsay McDonald formed a Government with the support of the (by now dying) Liberal Party.

Thus, Ramsay McDonald became the first Labour Prime Minister.

His Government lasted all of nine months (Jan - Sep 1924), but then lost a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, and was forced to resign.

By 1929 Labour was able to elect 287 M.P’s. Again, with support of the Liberals, Ramsay McDonald was able to form a Government, and for the second time he became Prime Minister.

Ramsay McDonald was seduced by power.
Thus he opposed the General Strike of 1926, even though this strike should have been a Labour cause-celebre.


He was also unsupportive of the Jarrow march

See -- this too should have been a cause for Labour.


By 1931, with the dawn of the depression, Ramsay McDonald was persuaded to form a “National Government” of Labourites, Liberals, and Tories.

True red Labourites (my heroes) left the Party, but the National Government was elected by a super majority in 1931.

The “true Labour Party “won only 52 seats.

The “National Government”, though presided over by McDonald was in fact controlled by Tories.

The “Keir Hardie” vision had been lost.

The National Government, in its turn it gave way to the Coalition Government of Winston Churchill (1940 -1945).

It was not until 1945 that the Labour Party had its first real Government under Clement Atlee. Of that Government I will write tomorrow.

J.Ramsay McDonald

Sunday, 8 February 2009

From methodist self help to democratic socialism

By the mid 1850’s Britain had been transformed from a feudal society, through a mercantile society, into an industrial society.

The old feudal ideas did not die so easily. The bosses (owners and managers) treated the workers as though they were serfs.

It was into this society that James Keir Hardie was born in 1856.

Born out of wedlock to Mary Keir (a servant girl), who later married a carpenter named David Hardie, he would henceforth be known as Keir Hardie.

He started work (for a baker) at aged 8, and by the age of 11 he was a coal miner. He never attended school, but by the age of 17, with the help of his mother he had learned to read and write.

Keir Hardie understood the intolerable conditions of working people, and he became a union organiser. His fame spread.

By 1891 he had been elected as a member of parliament for the West Ham (London) constituency. He was a fervent advocate for women’s rights; for free schooling; for pensions for working people; and for Indian self-rule.

Hardie hit the headlines in 1894 when, after an explosion at a colliery in Pontypridd which killed 251 miners, he asked that a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims be added to an address of congratulations on the birth of a royal heir (the future Edward VIII). The request was refused and Hardie made a speech attacking the monarchy, which resulted in uproar in the House of Commons[2] . In 1895, he lost his parliamentary seat.

(British working people were also fervent Monarchists!)

In 1893 he had founded the Independent Labour Party, with the intention of representing the working classes in parliament.

Then in 1897, though raised as an atheist he converted to evangelical Christianity, and became a local (i.e. lay) preacher.

From then on his vision was rooted in the Christian Gospel.

In 1900 he, with others worked to merge the various socialist bodies into what became the British Labour Party.

In that year he was also elected as Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare, in Wales. He was one of only two Labour M.P.’s, in that Parliament.

By 1906 there were 26 Labour Members of Parliament.

Keir Hardie was in his own words an “agitator”.

He agitated for women’s rights (he was a friend of Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst).

He agitated for Indian self rule, and for Egyptian independence.

He agitated against racial segregation in South Africa.

He was entirely opposed to the “Boer War” – as was a Canon Holland of St. Paul’s Cathedral. London who said the following:

"We should humiliate ourselves for the blundering recklessness with
which we entered on the war, and the insolence and arrogance which blinded us so utterly. Let there be no more vain-glory, no more braggart tongues, and let us at the beginning of the New Year find our true understanding."

(Shades of the Anglo-American Iraq adventure?)

Keir Hardie was also a despised pacifist when World War I broke out.

I salute the memory of this grand Christian socialist. I am grateful that my parents also honoured his memory.

Had they not done so, I would never have included Keir Hardie in my pantheon.