Satellite Workshops and Biological Bullshit

On returning to Kupang we adjust our flights to incorporate a workshop that was previously cancelled. With the church group that didn’t’t want to discuss abortion but discovered a friend had attempted a ‘cassava abortion’. An opportunity to meet and discuss issues surrounding sexuality and reproduction at such a traumatic time was surely worth amending flights for. We arrived early to a small hut behind a grand Catholic church. We are met by two people who immediately informed us that the schedule had been put revised. But when thirty minutes, becomes an hour that turns into two our enthusiasm drops. We go and eat and agree that if nobody shows by midday we will leave and try to do an impromptu workshop in a village we have been asked to visit. Just as we are saying goodbye seven women turn up and we agree to a short workshop but the atmosphere is strained throughout.

That was the last workshop for me. The next day Inna flew to Bali for the final two and I flew to Java in an attempt to reach Jakarta during the Ramadan rush. It ended on a frustrating note that was perhaps multiplied because we were exhausted from workshops and travel, but then again maybe I’m being kind. The situation serves to remind us that even in the face of horrific realities Samsara can only do so much as it meets people on their terms and conditions. Aside from that it has been thoroughly refreshing and enlightening; briefly coming into the lives of so many and making some new friends along the way, watching as people realize that Inna’s personality is much more flamboyant than her clothing choices (:P), and being able to participate, in a small way, on such significant issues. Inevitably many groups asked me about a comparison with issues of sexuality and reproduction in the UK and this got me thinking about a part of the workshops that I have a problem with.

In the UK the biological determinism of hormones and physiology reigns supreme, or rather the bad science of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and such crap rules roost. Basically they proclaim that men are genetically and hormonally determined to be aggressive rulers and women are best suited to the home. This biological bullshit almost died but has been resurrected by a belief in ‘free choice’ and the porn industry. You can easily read that since women have gained equality (!) but haven’t taken up anything near a fifty-fifty split in politics, employment, housework, etc it is because they choose not to, because they are not programmed to; it’s an unfair expectation.

Good scientists would say that the affects of biology and hormones are undetermined, for every biological study that fits the stereotype there are others that show no difference or difference in the opposite direction. A better scientist would state that the affects of culture, environment and politics will far outweigh the affects of bodily functions. For example in much of western Europe it was customary to dress babies of both sexes in white before the 20th century, for a time afterwards it was boys who were expected to don pink and girls blue; realities far removed from today’s pathetic pink princesses and boisterous blue badboys. Similarly anthropologists and archaeologists are reassessing data on extinct societies and discovering that there wasn’t such a strict sex imbalance, often roles of child-rearing and gathering food were exchangeable and shared. These are issues that I would certainly like to see introduced into the workshops because although it is important that people grasp the effects of biology and hormones, especially from medical interventions, it is more important that we open up thought and don’t reinforce negative stereotypes.

On both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees I wrote dissertations on sexuality, intimacy, reproduction and HIV. It was my aim to go into a related sphere of work but I quickly felt the doors didn’t’t exist or were shut if you didn’t’t fit a certain criteria. Thanks to Inna and Samsara for allowing me to join them and reigniting this dream. In the Pali text Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadins, the Buddha is quoted as saying, “destroyed is rebirth for me; consumed is my striving; done is what had to be done; I will not be born into another existence”. Fitting then that Samsara, an organization focusing on abortion and empowerment, means ‘rebirth’.



Faith is Richer than Purity: Faith is a Shining Rainbow

Even the most eloquent of speakers can be stifled by controversy and racism.  Last year I watched as Moazzam Begg refused to engage on internal topics concerning Muslims living in the UK, issues that if discussed openly might strengthen the community and break barriers with others.  On this occasion Begg preferred to engage the outrageous stereotypes of Islamophobia and ideas, or ideals, of terrorism.  It strikes me that this is a significant issue for much of the Muslim community in the UK, at least when it comes to public forums.  That is why I want to bring to focus alternative thought from Islamic thinkers.

Taufik Adnam Kamal, of the Faculty of Law of the Islamic Institute in Makassar,  points out that from the beginning the Koran itself had a textual and reading tradition that was varied; it was not singular or closed.  This helps explain why contradictory directions emerge, after all it is the person reading and quoting the Koran who determines how it is interpreted.  At the end of the day that person’s behavioural, cultural, mental and spiritual priorities will guide their decisions.  With this in mind it is, at times, hard to appreciate why some Muslims choose takfirism, a term from within Islam’s own history similar to ‘fundamentalism’.  Not being able to defeat the world with all its wrongs some Muslims attempt to cut themselves off from it, totally, to purify their behaviour.  Takfirism ultimately invokes attitudes of rejection and opposition.  The Islamic communities across Indonesia feel the pressures of Islamophobia like those elsewhere yet for the most part their thinking seems much more alive than in the UK.  People do not all agree and they do not have to, but neither do they feel that the situation is beyond hope and that all kafirs are devils.

On 31st March 1973 a young man was hit by a motorcycle and killed.  Ahmad Wahib was unknown but had participated in intellectual discussions on Islam with a group that would eventually influence the future of Islam in Indonesia, some taking up government positions.  From these discussions Ahmad Wahib had written seventeen volumes that would be found after his death and published, they documented the changes in Islamic thought in Indonesia.  The group took up questions such as ‘is it true that Islam is an ideology complete and perfect capable of answering everything?’ and ‘is an Islamic state ideal?’  Young Indonesians continue to take up such questions, walking on ground where God, the Koran and faith are questioned without the intention of heresy.  As Ahmad Wahib wrote on 19th May 1969, “God, I face you not only at times that I love you, but also at times when I neither love nor understand you, at times when it as though I want to rebel against you.  In this way, Lord, I hope that my love for you will be restored”.

Nurcholish Madjid reminds us that the word syriah means ‘path’ thus having a much broader meaning than some mere set of rules.  When syriah is reduced to a set of regulations memorised from  ancient recitation  the ‘path’ is no longer but rather a series of obstacles and limitations.  In other words explanation ceases.  Abdulkarim Soroush followed the ‘path’ and rebelled against institutional religion in Iran where he was attacked.  In Iran the ‘community of the faithful’ is often represented as the ayotllahs but it remains possible to disagree and negotiate with them.  Soroush is an example of this;  “I ultimately realised that there is such a thing as individual religion based on personal experiences, whose teacher is Rumi, just as there is such a thing as collective religion which what the syriah and fiq’h teach”.  The latter is an Islam of identity that often attempts to flaunt and ideologise ideas of a ‘pure’ Islamic reality, thereby conflating it.  Soroush is uncomfortable with this and prefers ‘the expansion and contraction of interpretation’, to him all truths are compatible.  It is easy to see why he likes Rumi so much and why his book on Rumi is one of the most respected.  Like Ahmad Wahib before him, Soroush believes that Islam does not have to become an ideology; something capable of explaining all things and guiding all affairs.

Nassaruddin Umar says, “He who most understands the Koranic texts is certainly God alone” consequently “it has been possible to write and read a number of verses in more than one way”.  It is these types of issues that cannot come out in the current mainstream media but neither do they come out in times of ‘Islamic awareness’ organised by the Muslim community in the UK.  These ideas immediately break down barriers as they reveal a ‘community of the faithful’ that isn’t about the defense and rejection of something so pure it doesn’t relate to reality, but rather questioning itself and others on a spiritual path that is based in lived experiences.  These ideas help to explore the diverse experiences of Islam around the world and that claims of purity are based on a specific place and time, on culture and conditions rather that a belief in the Koran alone.  I think the crucial point in breaking down Islamophobia is separating the Koran from culture.  As Ahmad Wahib wrote on 15th September 1971, “in identifying the Koran as the pen of God, we have insulted God… He is ineffable [too great to be expressed in words]… He meets man in man’s reason and faith.  Faith is merely a medium for the meeting.  Because of this, the concept of faith can change according to the level of human experience using it”.

Much respect to Goenawan Mohamad!


Sexuality and Reproduction Workshops: Lombok

The call to prayer has just begun in mosques all over the city, and so have we. It is the fourth workshop in four days on the island of Lombok in Indonesia. In places this small island looks more Islamic than some distant Middle East stereotype. We are here to provoke discussion on sexuality, sex and the reproductive system. This builds up to talk about abortion, which in Indonesia is illegal. The workshops in East Lombok were made up of people in their late twenties and early thirties and the workshops in Mataram, the island’s capital, are people in their late teens, early twenties. Both groups consist of about eight men and four women and present the possibility to disseminate information to a much wider audience, from villages to students.

As the man selling spicy fruit salad cycles past I am thinking about a discussion from the previous workshop. Half the group was in agreement that using words such as ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ were and are too explicit for wider audiences. My thinking is not how to describe the menstruation cycle or sex organs without using such terms but what this might be saying more subtly between the lines; ‘we are not ready for gender or sexual equality’. Because if we cannot name parts of the human anatomy using medical terms then how can we implement lessons within intimate relationships and society? Regardless of this fact both groups are enthusiastic, inquisitive and open to discussion on diverse issues.

In a traditional Sasak wedding small horses with small carriages carry the bride and groom, their family, and their friends. A procession of about twenty such horses and carriages have just ridden past the workshop, on the last carriage was a loud system. The locals wanted to take us to see the wedding and we wanted to go but all resisted the temptation and carried on. A range of questions come up, from the innocent to the weird. One biology/medical student wants to know how long the penis must be docked, no movement, for fertilization. Many participants are unaware that the reproductive system is not purely for making babies but can also be used for pleasure, both on their own and with others. A particularly inquisitive fifty year old virgin wants to know the answer to the following; if a woman is gang-raped by five men and becomes pregnant, whose is the baby, the first or the last? Luckily I didn’t understand what he was saying or I might have tried to answer. More worryingly this man has some responsibility to provide contraception in Lombok and was surprised when he saw that condoms come in multiple colors when I was demonstrating how to use one. I don’t think he picked up on the fact that I was using a ribbed variation. This highlights a wider problem with Indonesia’s national family planning organization who didn’t want to provide condoms for demonstration purposes in Yogyakarta, often hailed as one of Indonesia’s most liberal cities; they were afraid it would promote promiscuous sex to young people. When they eventually gave in they sent out of date condoms to ensure they wouldn’t be used in practice.

Signs and adverts are slowly going up to celebrate Ramadan. That is why we are starting the workshops in Lombok and returning to Bali and heading east where there populations are not so predominantly Islamic. On Friday, something of a half day for many Muslims around the world we took a break from the workshop for the midday prayer. The men took me to the mosque in Pancar and I watched the hundreds of men pray, not all could fit into the mosque some were praying on the pavement, in the shade. In Mataram one of the young men wants to discuss evolutionary and creationism with me after the workshop. Both groups want to make it clear to me subtly and explicitly that there does not have to be a conflict between Islam and ideas of gender and sexual equality. This is already a certainty for me but this isn’t just a show for the foreigner, men across Indonesia have set up new initiatives in attempt to engage more men in issues surrounding gender and sexual inequality. The problem is how the information is delivered because everybody knows the story of the ‘angry villager’. Angry because despite following the instructions of the family planning advisor still got pregnant; the condom went on the thumb during intercourse as shown.

These are not simple, innocent people without a clue when it comes to these topics. When a projector is not working and we are forced to draw the female reproductive system from memory a young woman confidently and calmly gets up, takes the pen off of us and corrects the drawing. More theoretically, everyone quickly grasps the difference between sex and gender and begins to appreciate how gender is socially constructed. I don’t know if there is enough time to explore what these things mean in practical terms but the workshops must introduce a number of issues and adapt to what participants want and need. For example they appreciate that I am not a women despite having long hair and that hair style is socially constructed and not biological but what does this mean when implementing projects or doing workshops in the future, how can we work in ways that break and open up gender stereotypes. That is what we could tackle if there was time.

So it has been an interesting four days that immediately challenge what I think sexuality and reproduction means in the world. Indeed a place where a fifty year old has many misconceptions about sex and sexuality while every teenager isn’t using sexually explicit language and engaging in ‘sexting’ seems like another planet, far from what the mainstream UK media would have us believe is possible in today’s global village. I haven’t got space to introduce some of the issues surrounding abortion or even the woman leading the workshops, and the organization she started. Next time.


As Israel Again Escalates Murder on Gaza: Let Us Remember

I’m inside a rain falling from high in the sky on a dark night when everyone else is asleep. I’m not a single raindrop; I am the rain. But when will I stop falling and smash into the ground, drying by morning, never to have been noticed. I am a hard rain, everybody is asleep but their televisions have been talking to themselves in the dark…

Soldiers do think. They think about the future. We think about the present. I think about the past. It only becomes problematic when you get stuck in one of these…

I remember, I remember, I remember…

Being Made Ready
One day prior to our entry into Gaza, a mobile unit arrived from the military rabbinate unit. There were a few of them, one was a major with a nice long beard and side curls. They approached me and said they belonged to an organization called “Jewish Awareness for a Winning IDF” they came to talk with the soldiers and give out material, The Book of Psalms and some brochures.

“We have four enemies”, the major with the long beard and side curls began, “Iran, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and the Arab citizens of Israel. Be courageous in battle and exercise no pity because God protects you, everything you do is sanctified; this is a holy war. This is the war of the ‘sons of the light’ against the ‘sons of darkness’”. What a load of bollocks! Some guys were buying it though. But it was making me feel sick so I walked off.

The next day the colonel gave our whole battalion a talk. He was revving us up before going into battle and there was a general feel of operational zeal amongst us. “This action will enable Israel to live in safety by stopping missile attacks; it will also topple the terrorist regime and help get things back to order there. You should expect massive attacks as soon as you enter the strip so do not hesitate to shoot; this is war. This is not like the West Bank, there will be no civilians in the area, we told them we are coming and they have left for the cities. Everyone you encounter is a terrorist”.

“We cannot surprise them with our timing; they know when we are coming. We cannot surprise them with our location; they know exactly where we’re coming in. What we do have is fire power”. We got the gist in urban warfare anyone is your enemy, no innocents. It would be simple urban warfare in everyway. Civilians become irrelevant as soon as you enter combat.

“Be confident we have already exercised insane firepower by air and sea and this will continue as and when you need it on the ground. If there is any doubt there is no doubt, we do not intend to lose a single soldier, shoot anyone you see. Above all other goals this is primary. Don’t let morality become an issue. That will come up later, for now the rules of engagement are to shoot. You don’t need confirmation for anything you want; if you’re afraid, if you see something, if you like, just shoot. Unfortunately we’re a democracy, so we can’t demolish Gaza to the extent that we’d really like but remember my best Arabic translator is my grenade launcher”.

As far as the army was concerned anyone there was to be killed he even said, ‘fortunately the hospitals are full to capacity already, so people are dying more quickly’. As a result everyone was certain we were going to face massive fire as soon as we entered the strip.

It was a bit dramatic but I liked him. Of course he didn’t leave any time for questions.

Looking for a fight
We were expecting constant and enormous threats; anti-tank fire, light arms fire, explosives, kidnappings and mortars. Any of these scenarios were definitely possible but I guess either we were being lied to or it’s a miracle that we had no significant casualties. Alerts came all the time, not just on the way in, but the whole time we were there. The sense of threat was built into us; we were frightened. Alerts like, ‘woman suicide bomber on her way to you’, ‘sniper in your area’, or ‘an anti-tank missile crew nearby’; none of them ever materialised. In actual fact there was no reason for our fear.

For the first week there were no confrontations at all and we were disappointed and needed to let off steam, simply shooting at whatever. There was hardly any encounter with the civilian population. In general, the city was a ghost town. In my own company plenty of people fired just for the hell of it, at houses and water tanks, they loved targeting water tanks. Nearly none of us ran into the enemy. I know of two direct encounters during the whole operation. They didn’t want us fighting up close, ‘no direct contact unless it happens at the first moment of encounter’. The battalion commander kept encounters minimal if he thought a house looked suspect he’d give orders to blow it away; the only thing limiting us were supplies of ammo.

During the second week we did see some terrorists but always far off in the distance. Well we couldn’t confirm they were armed. A mobile phone was reason enough to shoot but from our distance it could have been a gun, a camera, or a hairdryer. But in one instance we saw some Qassam rockets launched from a house so we simply razed the whole neighbourhood, we did this a few times so as not to put anybody at risk. I don’t know what else could be done it seems a bit unfair. There was so much of this going on it got to the point where we tried to report things and we couldn’t confirm locations with intel because everything had been destroyed, ‘is it near this house?’, ‘well there was a house there but there were five houses there’, ‘well is it facing the square’, ‘no more square’. I went and visited the girls at intel and they resented the fact that all their reference points had been razed and so directed attacks in general terms; even if coordinates were exact it could easily be the wrong coordinates.

Sometime towards the end of the second week we started to get closer to people. We would occupy a certain area and cleanse it taking up positions, going into the neighbourhood at night to take over houses and target sites to demolish. We were told to enter every house with live fire. In one house we found a family, after searching the whole family we told the women to walk away. We did not abuse them. But it hurts when five mothers, an old woman and little children look at you and the woman says “I have nowhere to go” and there’s nothing you can do. It has to happen. You toughen up. You look her in the eye and say: “Over there.” And they walk away. We gave the men a job; got them sledgehammers and told them to take down a wall to the next house. Then they led us into the house, when they do this type of work we call them Johnnies. The commander tells us we should use Johnnies when we need to, I understand there might be booby-traps and they stayed despite the fliers telling them to leave so what do they expect? There was nobody in the next house anyway. We used them to check other houses too, in one there were three armed men. We had helicopters fire anti-tank missiles at the house and sent the Johnnie in again, he said they weren’t hurt, so the helicopters went in again. Two were dead and one was alive so we sent in a D-9 bulldozer, it totally demolished the house over them. Sometimes we use the Johnnies as human shields too, placing our guns over their shoulder, the commanders said to, so we had no choice. Of course we were told not to mention it at the debriefing.

I can tell you one story about when I was on look out one night. This guy has popped up within 500 meters of us and by rights I can just shoot him. He continues walking closer and I can see he is an old man with a white shirt, long beard and a torch in his hand. We inform the commander about the detection and that he is unarmed. The company commander turns up and says, ‘all snipers to the roof’. It takes them a while and the old man is getting closer. At a distance of 100 meters we know he not holding anything, maybe he has a belt on or is spying for Hamas. We ask for permission to lay down deterrent fire, the commander refuses and says the snipers will be ready soon. The old man is nearing 50 meters and its getting touchy because at the kind of distance a belt could take us all out; some guys were yelling on the radio telling us to take him down. At 25 meters there’s sudden burst of fire making us all jump. The old man gives such a scream I’ll never forget. Everyone is shooting and shooting and the guy is screaming. The commander comes downstairs gleaming, ‘he’s an opener for tonight’. We asked him why we weren’t allowed to lay down deterrent fire and he says, ‘its night time and this is a terrorist’.

There was another instance where an old woman came from some houses that were held by us, nobody had detected her and she was close. We didn’t shoot her although we were supposed to. The APCs came up to unload some equipment; they saw her and shot her, not with the APCs machine gun but with light arms. She lay there dying for some time. She was carrying a sack that could’ve contained an explosive so we threw down a grenade to blow it up. It didn’t. Nobody checked the sack, we were too busy leaving.

Things that went on ranged from simple smashing of mirrors and crockery to using food and beds in people’s homes. The deputy commander wrote, ‘death to Arabs’ on the wall of the person’s home we were using. Some of the guys were really out of order, taking a shit and throwing it around people’s homes and when some of the D-9 drivers were told to take out a house they took a route where they could take out more buildings. Sure some people should go to jail for what they did but what can I say? They’re my pals, there’s no other way; I have to be friends with them I live with them. They enjoyed killing with such hatred and when battalion commanders tell you, ‘go on, fire’, who’s to stop them? Vulgarity and violence is a way of life for these youngsters and they were told there would be plenty of terrorists to kill but there weren’t.

Coming Out
About half an hour before the ceasefire we were instructed to fire at anything suspect and we used every weapon possible. I spent two years in Gaza before and this operation was on a totally different level, I’ve never known such fire power. Whether distant or near the ground was constantly shaking from blasts. We heard explosions all day long and night was filled with flashes, it was an intensity I’ve never experienced before. There was no intention of remaining in the Gaza Strip clearly the campaign would end at some point. The question was in what state we’d leave the area. Everything was geared to enable us better observational conditions and control; this was the principal behind all that razing, we wanted to leave the area sterile as far as possible.

All that destruction really bothered me, and all that fire at innocents… I realised who I was in there with. This is the price of all those draft-dodging lefties. We learned much from Gaza such as there is no such thing as a ‘dry’ operation; all entries are ‘wet’. At the end of the day the war was justified and we did what we had to. Each of us had another option if we didn’t agree; we all chose to go into Gaza. The actual operation was a bit thoughtless though, we were allowed to do anything we wanted. I got the feeling of a total lack of control over things, most of the destruction wasn’t necessary.

But listen, I do not feel some sense of heroic elation; it was sickening and unglamorous and boring and stupid. People suffered and I don’t think I did anything significant. You just can’t contain all the suffering that went on there but I’m not saying the operation was unjustified, it was. It taught me that even I can see such things and accept them and not be haunted by nightmares. I wanted to restore peace and quiet to Southern Israel but it’s impossible to conceive the extent of suffering we inflicted on Gaza…

The rain is clearing. And though the rain is clearing the darkness remains. Vaguely, high in the sky, the real Vultures are revealed, complete with their capes of nationhood and democracy. The rain has cleared but the televisions scream louder to themselves in the darkness. How are we to bring the Vultures down?

Let them circle in the darkness. Let them watch us with their piercing eyes. We have each other. They share our past. I can take the present. We will have the future…

London: The Chickens Come Home To Roost

A friend phoned saying she was watching footage of ‘London burning and people fighting in the street’ on Indonesian TV, she didn’t know the word for ‘riot’.  When I got round to looking into it I first checked a news source that I know to be sensationalist and unreliable; the BBC.  I immediately learned the troubles were in an area my brother lives in and so wanted to know more.  In order to understand anything you have to look deeper than the mainstream media and its protection of government and consequently big business.

The easiest alternative media to access is international where I found one of the rioters speaking; one with some sense of perspective that would never be deliberately aired in the mainstream.   The guy was explaining how around eight weeks ago over two thousand young people from the starting ground of the riots had peacefully marched to MET headquarters because of police brutality in the area, nobody was interested, not the police and not the press.  I also delved into a few blogs by those in the affected areas and asked friends for their take, friends that live in the affected areas.  As well as a description of the carnage in their communities they described the context of a people that have long been ignored and condemned.   The recent cuts have also created a situation where these people cannot go to college and are forced onto a jobs market that isn’t there.  The context may be hard to swallow for those from luckier parts of the country but you should appreciate that government and the media are good at putting problems in boxes and segregating issues… and people.  This is not to excuse violence but to gain some idea of the reasons why this it is happening.

There has been much racism circulating that the troubles are totally due to the ‘melting pot’ that is London, or ‘chavs’, or those needing financial assistance.  If you look beyond the mainstream press that fuels this racism you will discover that highly educated people, squatters from middle class families, and also those that refuse to rely on the state for anything are also rioting.  You will discover that there are well targeted attacks of big business as well as thoughtless attacks on citizens.  I care for neither but we should appreciate that the violence is multilayered if we are to comment and enter discussions.  If we are to condemn the rioters we should also condemn MPs (expenses and unnecessary cuts), the media (constant lies and Murdoch), and big business (over one hundred billion in unpaid taxes every year).  These types of violence are also immeasurable, financially and socially; but who gave a fuck a few months ago when Vodafone was let off six billion in unpaid taxes while the NHS is being cut by a similar figure?  That is why I agree with the sentiment of the riots but clearly they are misguided and a method of outrage that ultimately will lead to self-harm I fear.

I don’t claim to know the communities well but if I was in England I would go up to London to be with my brother and his three children in the very areas we see in the news.  I would talk to them and their neighbors to hear how they interpret the violence, not just the sensationalists views or those that fit my thinking but just listen to as many people as possible.  I might even help with the ‘post-riot’ clean up that some are trying to organize; some rioters and non-rioters alike.  You cannot rely on the BBC and corporate media for your information, they will soon be advocating the use of rubber bullets, which make no mistake about it means live fire as has been witnessed in their testing ground, Palestine.

England is not some perfect middle class wet dream where everyone aspires to home ownership, a nine to five job and a nice car.  There are some real problems that have been too easily accepted for too long, and allowed to stagnate under both governments.  Now that your attention has been demanded perhaps you should seek better information and listen rather than condemn.  Neither should this be seen as some sort of victory for the left.  When riots occur it is condemnation of the whole society; as well as the government they are equally saying fuck the unions and the activists.  After all these daisies are merely using loud voices and pointing fingers as workers as sacked and having their pay cut.  For the past few four days I have been working with a group called Ayo Indonesia on an island called Flores, they have so much to teach us in England about community and about supporting vulnerable communities, it is an honor to spend time with them.  So these are just a few things I have learned while being very busy in rural Indonesia, nearly thirty thousand miles away, so to I say expect better than blind condemnation and racism from friends in Southampton and around the UK is an understatement.

I’m interested in hearing what others think but in the words of Steve Biko, whose death sparked riots in South Africa because he was also murdered by police, “I write what I like”.