Friday, 27 November 2020

'Silence is Complicity'

I got myself into bit of a spat with a mate of mine by putting that phrase on a FB post.  He felt it unfairly pressurised  or implied criticism of people who choose not to take up the option of speaking out about it when they encounter an example of someone, or a group, perpetratinginjustice upon another, or upon a group of people.  I felt obliged to explain myself.

I can understand how/why people feel in some way pressurised when they choose not to speak out and call it out when they have come across an injustice of some sort, especially when someone else suggests they are in some way complicit inthe injustice by remaining silent.  And yet I find myself compelled to agree with this view.  Those who are familiar with the bible story of the good Samaritan will perhaps have some understanding of the principle.  To be aware of and then not, in some way react when an obvious injustice has happened is, in some senses to "ignore" it - almost, to pretend you did not know it took place. 

 The phrase "silence is complicity" implies that-  not to call it out when someone is abused, harassed, discriminated against, persecuted or, in some way, treated unjustly is to allow the injustice to be unchallenged in any way - the perpetrator, for want of a better description, gets away with, the "offence", which may possibly mean it may be continued or repeated.  On the other hand, if the observer of an injustice speaks out about it, tells others about it, 'spreads the word', so to speak, then that person has helped to create an awareness of what has happened.  If the perpetrator knows that his/her 'offence' has been publicised and that others now know about it , it puts pressure on him her to amend his/her offending behaviour, possibly to try and make up for it and not to repeat it.  For the injustice to have happened unchallenged, risks its continuance and may even allow the perpetrator to feel emboldened.

I hope I've not made too much of a meal of  this - it's only because I feel that if we want a better world and for things to change for the better, we should not stay silent - or, even sit on the fence about -injustice, inequality, oppression, etc.  It's a non-violent way of helping our fellow humans - just by telling others about what is happening.  Words have a sort of 'ripple effect' - people tell each other and talk about what's happening and hopefully, the awareness results in change for the better.  So, the moral is, don't be afraid to speak out - the more people know what's going on, the better!  Good luck!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Songwriting:

 Hey Friends, Brothers, Sisters, who love justice and equality:  I've just had the huge honour of a whole radio programme devoted to my songs being broadcast in my beloved Aotearoa (NZ). Here's the link: 

 https://accessmedia.nz/Player.aspx?eid=188fb069-eb02-4c86-a97f-e4be8b6f0fe2

Just wanted to say a bit about songwriting, which, musically, has been my life since I first started writing songs, in about 1964, I think. This isn't meant to be any kind of 'workshop' or anything,  just a bit of insight into what the experience of songwriting is for me.

People will tell you it's a cathartic process and that's very true.  It can be a way of getting stuff off your chest - stuff that's been bothering or haunting you.  In fact it's very true that when you use songwriting to try and express that 'stuff',  the sense of relief when you've actually got a song that has dealt with it -  is very real.  After many years I finally wrote a song about my own origins - or what I knew of them - (some of them are very shrouded) - I felt as though I'd had a massive emotional release, so strong was it. The song in question, although not recorded, is called "In the Mist of '45". I do hope I'll record it one day, at least for posterity.

And that word posterity is important.  Although your songs may not always be biographical in the literal sense, they nevertheless will inevitably feature biographical elements, and those will sometimes only be apparent when you've finished writing the song and sit back, as an observer, and look at it.  It may not be until you look at a larger crossection  of a songwriter's output that you can get a feeling of that "biography", for want of a better expression.

For me, songwriting is a journey of discovery.  Some may be surprised at that - assuming that if you set out on putting your thoughts on a subject into a song, you would know what you were going to end up with.  In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.  What comes into your mind as you're fossicking around for the inspiration, or the idea, or the catalyst that will move the song on, can be truly surprising.  It may be a phrase, or a catchy riff, or a tempting bit of melody, or something you find totally baffling - that makes you say - where on earth did that come from?

It's true that these happenings sometimes come from the instrument you're using, but certainly not always.  In short, it's unpredictable, but don't be surprised if it happens to you - it could even occur in something as simple as when you're trying to think of a rhyme.  The allure of this unpredictability can be quite addictive.

I usually start with some sort of verse or chorus that I've just thought of in my head, because I've often found that  those words, that verse, can suggest a tune or melody to me simply because of their pattern, rhythm, or cadence. 

Just one more thing - be patient.  If it's not working, forget it for a while and go do something else, and come back to it later.  The thing is, you see, that your mind/brain will, without you being aware of it, continue to tussle with the challenge while you're off doing the more mundane things of daily life.  I once wrote a song, called "Daydreaming", while I was hoovering the living room.  Some activities seem to require so little concentration that there's room for your mind to do all sorts of thinking about something that's occupying your thoughts more.  (The downside of that is that the activity you're supposed to be doing, suffers from lackof concentration, as my faithful partner, Pauline would confirm.

Well, friends, I'm stopping there, before this really does become a songwriting workshop!  The main thing for you aspiring songwriters is- don't fret - don't worry about it!  Good luck!

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Part One

Those of you who know me -who perhaps read what I write on facebook, or who have heard or seek out my music, will know that I am a passionate supporter/advocate/activist/ commentator on the subject of the injustice, to put it mildly, of what is happening in Palestine.  There will be those who wonder why the subject so obsesses me. Let me prevail upon your patience and try to explain:

 For years I wondered why there was this antipathy, this animosity, between Palestinians and the government of Israel.  Many people may think there is a simple explanation but, of course no such conflict between peoples is ever simple.  Where to begin? I wondered. So I put into practice what my wonderful partner, Pauline, always says in such instances- "Google is your friend," she says.  Coincidentally, it happened to be, at that time, some sort of anniversay of what is called "The Balfour Declaration".  I then found out that this very simply entitled document, or letter, as it turned out to be,  was the published, internationally recognised, paper, issued by the UK Parliament under whose aegis it had been drafted, declaring the establishment of what we now call Israel, or, to put it another way, a homeland for the Jewish people.  The reason it was produced by the UK was because, at the time, the region of Palestine was under the mandated administration of Britain, under international agreements following WW1,  these agreements having been produced by the League of Nations, which later bcame the UN.  Just why it was Britain that had this mandate is the result of conditions and outcomes of the war and the various nations/forces involved in it but I have to admit that I do not- did not- fully understand those processes.

Nor, I must admit, do I understand why (a) it was decided that the Jewish people should be provided with a "homeland" or (b) why it was Palestine that was decided upon.

As regards the former, I have assumed (and I accept that assumptions are risky) that the Jewishpeople, the Zionist diaspora, especially after the trauma of WW2, will have longed for a homeland.  Secondly, of course, there are aspects of Judaism which cause them to believe that their homeland in the land of Palestine is their god-given right.

Palestine, as history scholars will know, has long been and Arab land, peopled by the Palestinian Arabs for centuries.  The Palestinians have occupied, built on, lived and worked in their land for a very long time indeed so people will readily understand their- to put it mildly- resentment at the occupation of Palestine by Israel.

So, this (to my mind) contorted series of events and circumstances has resulted in Jewish people in large numbers emigrating to the middle east- to Palestine- and establishing their settlements and state in what Palestinians are adamant  is their land.  If you, reader, could imagine someone- a stranger- cimbing over the back fence of your garden without your consent, building a house on it and a fence across it and denying you access to it, you might begin to understand how the average Palestinian feels about the Israeli occupation and annexation of Palestinian land.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

 -couple of new songs:

first,  "The Burden"

(The idea for this one came from watching live football broadcasts and feeling really bad when some of the fans made racist noises whenever a black player did something noticeable.  Needless to say,  they were white fans,  and eventually I began to feel a strong sense of shame every time I heard it - to the extent that I could no longer enjoy watching the game.  It made me ashamed to also belong to a white-skinned race, to the extent that I felt that for me, being white (like the racist fans) was an affliction, hence the title.)  I am so glad that football has reformed - it now "takes the knee" and openly opposes racism.

I bear the burden of a white man's skin so I have to share the shame,
For the slurs and the curses of my racist kin I guess I have to bear the blame;
As black and white together we're all in this place
But richer for the diff'rences in ev'ry face;
Just a part of the Rainbow of the human race
And, skin-deep, all just the same;

chorus: instr. then- "Black lives matter, black lives matter
                                 Black lives matter- yes they do"

From the dawn of creation we have come so far
But we've still got so far to go;
And the unity of nations's such a distant star
And our progress is so slow;
We're all just big old brances on the same old tree
And we've got to hang together, so it seems to me
North and south and east and west,  all hanging free;
Blowing together to and fro;  (-cho)

I don't want to be a part of the racist crowd
My brothers and my sisters, I'm a cryin';
And if you cannot hear me I will shout it loud-
The Rainbow Nation crowd is flyin';
The fascists and the bullies may have all the guns
But we have to keep on telling them their race is run-
Their change of heart is coming slowly, one-by-one-
If we all just keep on tryin'; (-cho)


-and 2nd,  "Refugee Song" 
Unfortunately there are some people who feel resentment about the refugees who are trying to make their way to UK shores to live somewhere with peace and safety.  We heed to open our hearts - homes even, perhaps, and imagine ourselves living in countries with unrelenting warfare, poverty, disease, destruction - and understand that sacrificing everything, even life itself,  to make such perilous journeys is something we would probably resort to ourselves, as well.  We here, are so lucky- we have so much and are all more or less pretty safe and would probably still be just as lucky and happy if we were to
share it with refugees, who would all have their diverse cultures and gifts to bring.

Comes the time when we have to leave
Just can't stay by the graves and grieve;
Some where there's a safer land
So take your loved ones by the hand

All my clothes are on my back
Friends and neighbours on the track
Never knowing what's to find
But soon the guns are far behind

(Cho)  Won't you let me through your door
            Just a pallet on your floor
            Just a weary heart to rest
            Just a stranger for your guest

The babes and children, as they grow
All they see and all they know-
Bombs and rubble, every day
Nowhere safe to run and play

Ev'ry night in dreams we're free-
The dawn it breaks with the urge to flee,
Ev'ry hillside, every slope
Ev'ry border brings new hope;  (cho)

They say that if we travel far-
We'll find a land with a brighter star
Where people smile with open arms
With peaceful days and safe from harm; (cho)


and, finally,  "We're gone".
Two things have sparked this 'climate change' themed song.  Firstly a quote from the (deceased) Sarah Parkin, a former leader of the Green Party in Germany, I believe, who said that humans could be said  to be the only species who were "minutely monitoring their own extinction", and secondly,  the recent  UK govt. announcement of plans to open a new coal mine in NW Cumbria.  In light of a climate crisis,  that beggars belief!

They say we're creating
Our own demise,
Just sitting and waiting,
Hands over our eyes,
There's whales in the ocean
Now hunting is banned,
But with a gutful of plastic-
They die on the strand

chorus: Turn a deaf ear
             And just carry on
             Turn a blind eye, turn around-
             And we're gone,
             Yes, we're gone

Will the circle be broken?
So goes that song,
Will the hard words be spoken-
And will it take long?
Will we turn a blind eye-
As the climate declines?
Will we bury our future-
In more and more mines?    (cho)

There's stories of stormwinds
And sea-level rise,
Tsunamis like mountains
Touching the skies,
Rumours of deluge,
Predictions of floods,
And hills with no trees
And landslides of mud     (cho)

 

 Pictures From The Heart- revised version  June 2018

How come you're not famous
And known around the world?
Your images of deep surreal
Behind my eyes they swirl
They flow through all the places
We all so long to see
And yet they leave the spaces
Where dreams may roam for free

Perhaps you just don't realise
How it makes me feel
To hold them - and behold them
So dreamy, yet so real
They stun me with their beauty
Their captivating claims
And still, you trust them to me
To shield them in their frames

And, when I saw the whale
Within his crowded sea
I feared his breath would fail him
And feared the fault was me
So, bless you, daughter-painter
For all your loving art
For fantasy of shade and light
For paintings from the heart.....

Saturday, 30 May 2020

I've just been reading an Amnesty International report about the continuing and frequent shooting into  refugee (yes - REFUGEE) camps of barrages of teargas canisters and the incredible suffering this is causing to the thousands of vulnerable and defenceless displaced Palestinians  by Israeli government military forces.

It is unbelievable that any country could consider that another group of  human beings should be subjected to such cruel and inhuman treatment, especially a nation that has, in the past,  been subject to that  themselves.  And, remember, this is being perpetrated upon cramped, heavily populated camps provided for the Palestinian refugees by Lebanon and Jordan
I am providing you with a link to this report at the end of my post but I must warn you that it is an upsetting read.

After reading it you will no doubt ask yourself, among other things,  how can this happen in today's world?  What can we do?  What can I do?  How can the community of nations witness such atrocity and crime and allow it to continue?
It is certain that there are no easy answers to these deep and disturbing questions.
In the above case, it is principally the government of Israel which is, at worst, instigating, at best, allowing, these injustices to continue.
Then, of course, those questions remain.....
Let's look at those aspects about which a country's regime may be most sensitive:   One of the most important ones will be its image - its international reputation - among the family of nations.  This is where technology, the internet, social media, can exert an influence.  If a regime can operate behind closed doors, abusing or discriminating against a group of its people - and no-one knows or finds out about it, it can carry out such crimes with impunity - without critcism or sanction.  If, on the other hand, other nations, governments, find out about them, there can potentially be strongly detrimental effects.  These can be in the form of international criticism in the media,  reluctance by people to want to travel to, emigrate to, work in, trade with, share research, technology with, and buy produce or goods made in that country.
Such criticisms can have a very significant impact upon the economy and political health of the country in question and cause it - in the best case - to change the way it behaves towards the people it is oppressing or abusing.
So when you or I, as bystanders or observers, are confronted with such disturbing examples of the abuses of government power, and ask ourselves what we, either individually or collectvely, can do to address them, it is good to remember that there are approaches and strategies that do and can have effects on the seemingly impenetrable and invincible powers of national governments.
I want to provide a link to the Amnesty report I referred to at the beginning and I urge you to have a good look at it.  Although it pulls no punches, I'm sure you will feel indignant and motivated by it to think of what may be done to shed a light on the deplorable situation the people of Palestine have endured for so long.
The link contains the word nakba, a commemoration by the Palestinians, of the 1948 war which led to the establishment of the State of Israel.
https:nakba.amnesty.org.uk


Saturday, 2 May 2020


As those of you who follow my rantings will know I've agonised for ages about the plight of the people who live in the land of Palestine.
When I discivered that the new Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, had in the runup tp the LP leadership contest, accepted a significant donation from a prominent lobbyist for the Israeli government, I felt I had to challenge him about it.  Hence, I've enclosed a copy of my letter to him.  I don't know if he will turn out to be an apologist for the atrocious way in which the government of Israel and its sophisticated military machine have acted towards the people of Palestine but I sincerely hope not.  It's heartening to see, on social media, increasing calls for the Israeli government to be held to account for "crimes against humanity" in regard to Palestine.  Just as the crimes committed against civilians in the Balkan war in Bosnia-Herzegovina were exposed and adjudicated in the International War Crimes Court in The Hague in the Netherlands, so should the many examples of Israeli atrocities in Palestine   and those who sanctioned, planned and perpetrated them be similarly brought to book.

As a songwriter, I have sought to address some of these difficult issues through the medium of songs I have written about them.  Many people will, understandaby, consider that writing a song about a complex and serious issue such as this one runs the risk of trivialising it - and I can understand that point - it's challenging to strike the precarious balances between being forthright and truthful, while at the same time raising the awareness of the listener without alienating him or her.  It's my conviction that the combination of music and words has a unique way of finding a path into people's hearts, that makes me persevere and continue to put my feelings and conclusions across in song.

I'l try to keep you posted about Keir Starmer's response - if I get one - here's the letter:
 



28 April 2020.

Sir Keir Starmer,
Labour Party Leader 

                                                                                
Dear Keir,
As a Labour Party member, I was a strong supporter of your bid for leadership of the party after Jeremy stood down. However I’m afraid I have been very disappointed since the revelation that not only did you accept a large donation from a pro-Israel lobbyist but you kept that fact from us during the leadership election.  One could be forgiven for suspecting that such lack of transparency suggests that you felt acknowledging the donation may have prejudiced the leadership campaign result.

I must admit I cannot be certain about your position as regards Israel’s attitude and treatment of Palestinians.  Perhaps you are deliberately maintaining an ambiguous one so as not to offend?  If that were the case it would not chime with the impression of someone with the courage of his/her convictions.

I read yesterday, in a report about increasing attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israeli civilians and soldiers, including incursions onto Palestinian land where crops were being grown and using these incursions to increase settlement areas and, further, causing serious injuries to the Palestinian civilians requiring their hospitalisation.  Often these incidents include the Palestinians being shot at, injured and maimed with Israel authorities doing nothing to prevent such harassments and human rights violations.

It is widely known that your work as a lawyer included human rights issues.  While I would accept that in your work as a politician you are subject to powerful pressures and influences which make standing up for your beliefs in justice and equality more difficult, it also makes upholding those principles more important.

You have made much of the fact that you intend to deal with the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as a priority, now that you are Leader.  Please remember that, in spite of vested interests claiming otherwise, actual anti-Semitism is nothing more than discriminating against a person for no other reason than that that person is Jewish.  It is not anti-Semitic to express criticism of Israel for the many crimes, human rights violations and injustices the Israeli government and authorities have perpetrated and continue to inflict on the Palestinians.
That is the issue that has dogged and confused this debate from the start.  You would be doing the matter and the confusions it has generated a huge service if you could have the courage to be forthright about it and finally lay it to rest, even though I accept that may entail some political risk.

In closing may I say that I continue to view the future with you as leader of our Party with hope and optimism. Needless to say it would give me huge satisfaction and pleasure if I knew you had personally read my letter.

I wish you well in your new job and success in your efforts to make this a better world and a better country.

Yours sincerely
Paul Metsers 

Needless to say, I would be thrilled if Keir Starmer were to respond positively to my letter.

I'm afraid, though,  that I would then have to raise with him the issue of the suffering of the Uighur Muslims, an ethnic group who are enduring unbelievably cruel and unjust treatment at the hands of the CCP -the Chinese Communist Party and government in China.  It has been likened to (and, in my view, fairly) the treament of Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis during WW2.  Those of you who would like to know more, should find a document called 
the "Fleet Street Letter" , monthly alert, issue 2510, recently published.  It's a harrowing read, I warn you, and difficult to believe that in this day and age, is happening.

But, friends, that's enough for now.  So sorry you, had to wait so long for more from me.
I'll try to do better from now on.....