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Easter – a celebration of life by committing murder

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The spring equinox heralds the vivid re-emergence of life from its long, folded withdrawal during cold, monochrome winter days and nights. The turn of winter into spring, bringing warmth and colour and sound to the once frosted, silent landscape is worthy indeed of celebration. And from its earliest times, humanity has invoked ritual to express its joy at the changing of the season, the chance again to grow food and feel the heat of the sun.

Easter is now the preferred name for this ancient rite which, purely for cultural reasons, does not fall exactly at the time of the astronomical equinox but is close enough to align the ceremony with the time when, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, days will lengthen, nights shorten, warmth increase and cold retreat. Time to feast and celebrate!

The celebration, of course, is about life. It is about those lives that have survived the darkness and harshness of winter and those new lives that will now emerge into the breathless beauty of nature… The Christian faith appropriated the original spring celebration and adopted this time to be a sacrament, reflecting upon the death and new life of its God, with the pain of crucifixion (winter) defeated by the resurrection (spring) – there will be life is the message. It is life that is worthy of celebration.

But tragically and appallingly, in countryside and city, village and town, nation after nation, this celebration will be stamped with blood, marked with violence, stained with cruelty. The celebration of life will be bloody and brutal, murderous in intent. The feast will be spiced with the trauma, screams and despair of innocent lives destroyed, salted with the tears of infants as their small bodies tremble in terror, and flavoured with the echo of their cries for their mothers as they are dragged and kicked towards the knife.

Lamb, we are told, is the food of choice for celebration. Lamb, which means what? Certainly not the living, breathing, nose-twitching, ear-turning, still-suckling animals who relish and delight in every moment of their wonder and amazement at the world around them. Not, certainly, the fragile babies who cling to the sight and sound of their mothers even as they explore the field around them, play with their fellows, and jump and run with the magic of the wind through their new-born fleeces and the miracle of sunlight that covers their bodies as spring suggests to them such a potential of abundance, and even the rain that falls upon them, the splendour of life-giving water as they turn their tiny faces towards the clouds overhead and soak up and drink in the stunning power of the world that surrounds them. At Easter, “lamb” does not mean these perfect bundles of joy and hope, these babies who savour the marvels that overwhelm them in every moment, their incredible passion for play and their profound and beautiful love for and dependence upon their mothers. Our witness to the majesty of those quiet, familial moments, the delicate expression of such gentleness and kindness, should warm and soothe our hearts and show us that the bond and kinship that we as humans experience from parent to child are not unique to us but shared with these loving others for whom the feelings felt between mother and child are our equal in depth and intent.

But no. Lamb, at Easter, does not mean these babies, and the enriching love of mother and child. At Easter, “lamb” means, “leg of lamb”, “shoulder of lamb”, “lamb steak” and “boneless lamb”, these words and phrases, even as they hint at an unwelcome truth, smother that truth in these culinary terms that describe only meal choices, selections for the dinner table, portions and ingredients for a range of recipe options. They are a lie because they refuse to tell the truth, to tell of the fate that befell those new-born infants.

Lamb at Easter is only possible with murder. When the farmer walks into the field and grabs the lamb by the neck and drags him from his mother, even as he cries and the mother cries, he keeps on walking, and locks the child into the crate that will take him to his death. The farmer knows he kills and he wants to kill, and he does not care for the mother who cries and he does not care for the child who cries, for no-one who cares for a mother and her infant child would drag them apart and leave them both to cry. And they do not just cry, but cry from the deepest hole in their hearts, that gut-turning, soul-tearing agony of hopelessness and loss when one is rocked, shook and shattered by an abandonment and loneliness that cannot, ever, be anything other than sheer despair, a mind-breaking horror of the most desperate sadness… because nothing will hurt like it hurts when the mother is torn from her baby and the baby is torn from his mother. They hurt. They really hurt. And the farmer is happy with their hurt and their agony and their misery. Not a thought for their unspeakable pain, only the counting of coins and notes, the numbers duly noted on the balance sheet.

And then the babies, crowded together, crushed against one another’s bodies, bewildered and terrified, pleading only for the sound and the smell of their gentle mothers but refused all comfort, are screamed at, yelled at, choked by the smell of fumes and the stink of trucks that close them in a nightmare that is only beginning and whose ending these small and frightened minds cannot possibly imagine. These babies cannot harm, cannot be violent, would not know nor understand violence, but every moment of the little that remains of their lives will be an onslaught of violence and aggression, cruelty and a ferocious pain, a physical torment that rips their minds apart and bursts their hearts open in a racing fear of outrageous noise and the poisonous stench of the machinery of slaughter.

Who would dream to drag a baby to a place of murder? Who would imagine it and then do it? Who would grab a baby animal by the throat and heave him to a place whose only purpose is to kill? Who would tie the baby up, slam him down and lock him to machines dripping with blood, the floor dripping with blood, and then force the knife across the baby’s throat even as he reaches with his nose to touch the killer’s hand in a gesture of love, begging for kindness?

Who would cut the baby’s throat and watch the life and love gush out and die in a frenzy of deadly agony?

We would.

Lamb is the food of choice for Easter. Whether we regard ourselves as adherents to an ancient faith with its awkward tales of godly death and resurrection or godless consumers relishing the time off from toil, we adore the chance to celebrate the awakening of spring and gather with others to feast. Why then, would we commit murder to do so? What kind of mind would derive pleasure from the bloody murder of babies? What kind of soul would find satisfaction in chomping down on the corpse parts of an infant who screamed in terror and whose eyes shed bitter tears with no mother to soothe his pain?

I hope that humans do not want to be bad and do not want to be cruel, but I also know that we do know that the “leg of lamb” and “lamb steak” and “shoulder of lamb” belonged to a defenceless, frightened, crying baby animal who had barely had time to enjoy the richness of life’s immeasurable possibilities and the delight he felt in the grass below his feet, the breeze upon his face and the extraordinary, impossible-to-describe love of his mother’s gentle caress, the exquisite warmth and safety of the touch of her body against his… before he was roughly, brutally torn from her and thrown to his fate, a journey and destination of nightmarish savagery. We know that. If we indulge in gorging upon the scraps of his body that remain after the violence of our blades then we are bad, we are cruel.

We may close our eyes and suppose we are good and grand in the great scheme of things, we may rejoice in the gathering of our family or friends around the dinner-table, and we may be pleased with the good deeds we believe we have done.

But we are not good.

Not if we celebrate life with death. Not with murder for a meal.

On being REALLY offended

Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Today I listened to the Today programme on R4 with some talk about a survey of 1,000 Muslims which suggested that around 80% of those surveyed are personally very offended by pictorial representations of their Prophet. I kind of get the faith thing (though as a rational human I have none), but the images are just that, they’re drawings, cartoons, they’re just made up, only made-up stuff, but that’s enough and thus serious, careful debate ensues as to what to do about that offence, how best in future not to cause offence. Offence must be taken seriously.

Lately, I was made aware that “some people”, faceless, nameless people, had taken great offence at my new book of poems, Deadstone. Those people had only ever seen the cover, they’d never read a word inside, but seeing it, the cover, was enough, that was bad enough, it caused offence… it’s only a made-up thing, a picture of a gravestone and a hand (my hand!), it’s just a photograph and a by-line (“poems to make you crawl back into the grave”) but even so, it’s enough, apparently, to harm and hurt and cause offence. Somebody told me that I needed to be more careful, to be mindful of the sensibilities of others. Offence must be taken seriously.

Channel 4 recently showed a “mockumentary” about what things might be like in the UK in the event of a UKIP electoral victory [for any who do not know, UKIP are a sort of political party, for people incapable of thinking for themselves], and many hundreds of people were offended. It’s a programme, and it’s made up, just made up stuff, but that was enough, people were outraged, people were offended. Ofcom (a UK regulator) will investigate. Offence must be taken seriously.

Made-up things. Stuff that’s not real. Cartoons and book covers and TV dramas – pretend things. But people react, recoil in horror, respond with outrage that something that is personal to them has been challenged or seems to challenge them, personally, and so even though the stuff of outrage is just made-up, the offence comes flooding out and people are supposed to sit up, bolt upright, take note and take notice, and do something about the offence, be deadly serious about responding to the offence…

Because people are offended by made-up stuff…

I’m offended too. Right now, sitting here, I’m feeling really quite offended. But not about made-up stuff, made-up stuff doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I couldn’t care less how offensive someone wants to be with book covers and cartoons and stuff on TV – it’s all pretend, it’s not real so what’s the big deal?

I’m offended by what is real – I’m offended by having the sick violence of “meat” and “dairy” shoved in my face, in my mind, minute after minute, hour upon hour, day by day… I can’t move around without seeing the damned stuff, I can’t walk through town without being bombarded by that crap, I can’t sit down anywhere just to have a drink or maybe some food without its stink being stuffed up my nose. I can’t turn on the TV or the radio without seeing and hearing cheery, smiley folks talking oh-so-jolly about the meat and the dairy and eggs; “happy” pictures of farmed animals, the lies spurted out about humane slaughter, the corruption of someone’s scream in the slaughterhouse into a laugh-and-a-half because, of course, the animals are so happy to die for us, are so desperate to be done to death for us, that they’ll hop and skip and jump into the pit and offer their necks to the knife. And I’m forced to hear, over and over, how it’s all done so humanely and with such gentle kindness and we’re oh-so-grateful that they “gave” their lives to us (even as people grab too much to shove in their mouths and dump half of the bits into a bin).

I’m really bloody offended, and offended by what’s bloody, and bloodily, real.

The filth and misery and relentless trauma on the farm are all real, and they offend me.

The pain of the beatings, the bruises, the scars and the torn flesh are all real, and they offend me.

The hammer smashed on the new-born calf’s head is real, and it offends me.

The pliers slicing the baby piglets teeth are real, and they offend me.

The crushing horror of the chicken’s life is real, and it offends me.

The rape of the cow is real, and it offends me.

The parched suffering of the journey to slaughter is real, and it offends me.

The trembling, tearful despair of those who wait to be murdered is real, and it offends me.

The agony of the bolt to the brain of the bull is real, and it offends me.

The blood on the slaughterhouse kill-floor is real, and it offends me.

The slashing to death of day-old baby-boy chicks is real, and it offends me.

Slaughterhouses exist, and that offends me.

That twat standing there eating a burger is real, and they offend me.

That dumb-fucker sticking his fork into pieces of chickens is real, and they offend me.

All that talk of “ooh bacon” and “lovely sausages” is real every sodding day, and it offends me.

I’m really fucking offended. And I’m offended by what’s fucking real.

Who’s going to take my offence seriously?

Within Because Of Without

Posted by on Jan 29, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I smashed my face into a rock
Pummelled the edges with my cheekbones
Split my nose against its sharpened side
And beat my eyes into its rough façade

My face cracked
In two

And the truth poured out

I picked it up and put it in my pocket
And walked around handing it out all over town

I set fire to the hairs on the back of my neck
Poured boiling oil over my arms
Carved scars into my chest with knifes
And pulled bones from below my skin

My bones snapped

And justice stuck from splinters

I grabbed a hold and put it in my pocket
And walked around handing it out all over town

I jumped headfirst into a raging sea
Cracked my skull on sunken stones
Filled my lungs with dirty water
And drowned in a spasm and gulp

My lungs exploded

And love flowed from the wound

I opened my mouth and swallowed it whole
And walked around handing it out all over town

I crunch my eyes shut
In the deep dark I scream

Seven Days of Uncreation

Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

On the first day – Man saw that there was light

And by the first fire he picked his first fight

He’d killed his brother by the time it was night

And beaten his wife and left her black and blue


I wonder who it is that could ever love Man

Because that isn’t something that I could ever do


On the second day – Man looked up to the sky

And fired an arrow to kill all the birds on high

He wanted to kill every animal that could fly

And leave the ground red with the blood of those who once flew


Is there really a God who really loves Man?

Because that isn’t something that I could ever do


On the third day – Man took an axe to a tree

And got rid of all the rest to make space so that he

Could feed cows for a day and then eat the cows for tea

But then the world couldn’t breathe but it was too late to undo


Is there anyone out there who would ever love Man?

Because that isn’t something that I could ever do


On the fourth day – Man made himself a crown

And said he was greater than anyone else in town

The women and children the animals too were made to bow down

To the will of Man who said he was king and it was eternally true


But is there any who cares for the rule of Man?

Because that isn’t something that I could ever do


On the fifth day – Man ripped all the fishes from the sea

And tipped all his rubbish in there as far as the eye could see

The water was blood red and none were left to swim free

Either served up for dinner or forced to do tricks in a zoo


Is there any alive who could ever respect Man?

Because that certainly isn’t something that I could ever do


On the sixth day – Man caged everything that moves

Locked up and beaten down in a violence he approves

And murdered in their millions that so clearly disproves

That Man is at all good, he’s pure evil through and through


Is there even one animal who would ever love Man?

As an animal too, that really isn’t something that I could ever do


On the seventh day – Man saw woman and he knew

That he wanted to have her, so he raped her, and then threw

Her into the gutter and thought, “Fuck it, I’ll rape her kids too”

So he did, and then killed them, and his excitement just grew


Could anyone ever care for the monster called Man?

I’m damned if that’s something that I’ll ever do

… … …

The world was born from the ashes of stars

And down from the trees and out of the tall grass

Sloped a small creature called Man

Who revels in the violence of his hand


No good will ever come from this beast that haunts Earth

Except he be born anew

And knows he is not greater but equal

To all others that roam the land


And for the first time he tries

To be kind, loving and wise

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