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Sunday 29 January 2012

The Money-Changers and the Money-Lenders

Nowadays everyone seems to blame ‘the bankers’ for everything, but ‘the bankers’ is such a loose term that really sounds like nothing but another scapegoat. Money-lenders have a pretty poor press throughout history but, whether you want a mortgage or become overdrawn, the majority of people make use of their services at one time or another in their lives. I think that is a good thing. It is helpful to be able to borrow what is needed, and if a fair interest rate is charged and agreed upon, it is mutually beneficial.
To be frank, I don’t really care if some banker is awarded a huge bonus when the country is riddled with debt and people are losing their jobs. It doesn’t feel right but If his bonus were shared among all the people who have lost their jobs, it wouldn’t amount to much. In reality, though, the ‘front men’ are easy targets, and the public outrage is pandering to a smoke screen covering what really goes on.

If I wish to borrow £100 from a neighbour, who agrees to lend me the money for a venture, I would take that as my neighbour’s belief in my ability to succeed and be willing to pay back the money plus interest when my venture came to fruition. That is all to the good. Supposing, though, that my neighbour was more desperate to lend me the money but I had no need of it, so my neighbour set about creating something that would put me in a position where I was in need. Perhaps, if the neighbour were really wicked, he could create friction between me and other neighbours so we started wrecking each other’s livelihoods and destroying each other’s property until we had so many bills that we could not pay and we would need to borrow money urgently just to protect ourselves and get by. Then, when through the machinations of my money-lending neighbour, I am brought to my knees, he can charge whatever he likes in interest and, what is more, he can slide in and take over the running of my household since I have made such a mess of it.

That is the First World War in a nutshell...though we are led to believe otherwise. I wonder, too, though I am no economist, if that is what is now happening in Greece, where there is financial chaos and 'someone else' would like to move in to take over the economy. Is this a test-drive for everywhere else?

When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the Temple, it wasn’t because they were offering loans or carrying out a fair business. He was incensed because the innocent people who wished to pray and live their lives peacefully were being cheated and manipulated. Someone announced that all money was evil and so only the money that came directly from the Temple was good enough to be used to pay the stipulated price for any particular ceremony. The money-changers charged whatever they chose and people had no alternative but to pay it if they wished to carry out their religious practices.

 Isn’t it interesting how this was one of only two occasions in the Gospels when Jesus was incensed? Isn’t it interesting how the money-changers (not the money lenders) evoke the wrath of heaven? Euro anyone? Americo anyone?
The second novel in my 'Shattered Crowns' trilogy (Shattered Crowns: The Sacrifice) will soon be available. It almost breaks my heart to write it when I see that 40 million people, who believed they were acting for good, died, in fact, for the benefit of so few and for so unjust a cause....

Friday 27 January 2012

Kaiser Wilhelm - A House of Many Windows

The better I ‘get to know’ Kaiser Wilhelm – whose birthday was 27th January – the more I feel for this man, who has been so reviled by historians. The First World War propaganda really settled into the psyche and to this day he is seen as the mad warmonger, which he never really was, I am sure.
The details of his traumatic birth and the effects of the disability of his arm have been repeated so often that it is hardly worth repeating them but it really must have had such an impact on a small child who, on the one hand was so flattered and manipulated – and basically used as a pawn against his parents - by Bismarck and others, and at the same time was intelligent enough to know that his disability might prove a major obstacle to the image he wished to create. After all, he had heard the whispers that ‘a one-armed man can never be Kaiser...’ and in a typical example of how cruelty breeds cruelty, he himself was later to make a similar statement about his own father when throat cancer rendered him speechless.

There is no doubt hat he could be cruel. His treatment of his mother, after his father’s death, is a prime example of this – but what goes on in families (his love-hate relationship with his mother), and still more what goes on in human minds can never really be understood by outsiders. His pride, his belligerence and his alleged madness, though, seem to be greatly exaggerated and misunderstood. When he was a small child, his mother wrote that he ‘ is very shy by nature and that often makes him look proud.’ That seems to have been the pattern of his life. His outward appearance, however, contrasted sharply with his obviously low opinion of himself.

He wasn’t always – in fact he was never! – the caricature on the propaganda posters. Again, when he was a child, his mother wrote that he, ‘is a dear, interesting, charming boy – clever, amusing, engaging – it is impossible not to spoil him a little. He is growing so handsome and his large eyes have now and then a dreamy expression and then again they sparkle with fun and delight. He too has his failings; he is inclined to be selfish, domineering and proud, but I must say they, too, are not his own fault as they have been hitherto more encouraged than checked.’

One aspect of his character really stands out for me – his desire to be loved. His disability and the way in which the Prussian court kept him from his mother, seems to have left him with such a sense of insecurity and a longing to be accepted. Like many people, torn between conflicting emotions, he sometimes lashed out – trying to appear the strong man when the little boy inside him was crying to be loved. I think often, when reading more about him, of Robert Louis Stevenson’s lines: “The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.”

I do not believe for a moment that he wanted war and – as the title the first novel my trilogy shows! – I believe he, along with Tsar Nicholas, was easy prey for those who wished to find a scapegoat on which to blame the subsequent slaughter. Kaiser Wilhelm was a complex man of many shades of character, but he was also capable of great love. His desire to visit his grandmother, Queen Victoria, as she was dying, his interview with the Daily Telegraph in 1908 (which led to such a bizarre furore and contributed to his nervous breakdown), his willingness to rescue to the Russian Imperial family in the midst of the revolution when Germany and Russia were at war, and even his angry tantrums when war broke out, seem to me to bear witness to his capacity to love and his longing for love.

Ultimately, had he not been so manipulated by those around him, he might have shown his true character and would have come down through history very differently...  

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Truth - and weeds! - will out...

At the height of the July Crisis of 1914 a certain German newspaper reported erroneously that the Kaiser had ordered a complete mobilisation of his army and war with Russia was imminent. Without a doubt that report was read in St. Petersburg and though, at that very time, the Kaiser and the Tsar were desperately corresponding via telegram and both were trying to avoid war, such a feeling of mistrust was aroused and such a sense of danger reported that public opinion all but dragged both Emperors into the terrible conflict.
The freedom of the press is of vital importance. The problem was....and is....that the press was owned by a small group of people who could manipulate and print whatsoever suited their agenda.

Fast forward several decades....In the 1980s I, along with many other people, frequently scoured the pages of the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ for the addresses of publishers to whom I might submit my work. At that time, the local library was filled with a huge non-fiction section with books on every fascinating subject imaginable and an equally large fiction section with such a huge selection of different styles of writing that it was a veritable gold mine of literature and learning. As time passed, something odd started to happen. The list of publishers in the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ became shorter...famous names and small presses were gradually being taken over by a few large companies until basically there were only two or three companies who owned everything. At the same time, the selection of non-fiction books in the library took up less space and the fiction section dwindled, too, in favour of videos and fewer classics. If you checked the publishers of these books, they all belonged to the same 4 or 5 companies.

At that time, I received some interesting replies to my letters and submissions to publishers. One told me that my biography of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia ‘lacked sufficient scandal to be of interest to readers’. Another said, ‘historical fiction has had its day...’ (funny that there are more historical fiction sites than those devoted to any other genre now) and several ‘lost’ my manuscripts and there were many other odd goings on about that and how my ideas appeared elsewhere but that is of no importance now. One went even so far as to say, “we like your style. Write about sex and shopping and we’ll give you a chance’...er, no thank you! Sorry, but I couldn’t help but think of some jumped-up school leaver/junior reader looking for a break for him/herself with no experience of life....

Then, along came the internet! Whole new worlds opened up for writers – print on demand publishers...so different from so-called Vanity publishing (a derogatory term devised by those who wished to control what the masses read! And interestingly enough there is a fascinating list of classical authors who are now hailed as the best writers who had to publish their own books most of which had more to say than the dross thrown out by the publishers of their age). Amazon is incredible! How they deal with their writers and with their readers and purchasers is beyond a dream!! Respectful, fair, a customer-centred service in every possible way...access to books that I had only dreamed of finding before...and then came Kindle and other e-book publishers...books at our finger-tips...books on line....Google and WordPress blogs and above all, access to knowledge and truth and the freedom to choose from a wide variety of sources and make up our own minds about what is real and what is propaganda.

This is why I have Tweeted the Wikipedia blackout today. I do not believe that this dispute has anything to do with copyright, but has everything to do with a few people wanting to gain control of the internet, just as they gained control of the newspapers and then the publishing companies and TV stations. The copyright business is merely a smoke screen because the owners of newspapers and the mainstream media (including publishing) have had control of what they feed people for a very long time and internet freedom threatens this. They have not used this gift well but have often sought to manipulate rather than educate, or to dumb down rather than to raise up; to create fear rather than appeal to the true nature of humanity, which is love. Basically, some people have sought power of others’ minds and right now that power is threatened by the freedom of the internet. Of course, I don’t agree with stealing other people’s work (and that has been the prerogative of certain publishing houses which I could name but will refrain from so doing!) but there is something more important going on here. 
Have you ever tried to get rid of weeds in your garden – especially those which grow between cracks in paving stones? Do what you like, they keep on sprouting...you clear one space and they sprout elsewhere and so it is with the human spirit and our innate attraction to freedom. In every aspect of my life, I see more and more clearly every day the wonderful freedom of the Divinity – the God/Source of All – who simply cannot be crushed and whose freedom can never be curtailed but which lives in every heart and in every being...It is Life itself, and no amount of policing can ever control it. What a wonderful world this can be if we strip away the blinkers, see through the smoke screens and have access to our birthright as free-thinkers and free-spirits!

Friday 13 January 2012

We Actually Get On Rather Well....

Many years ago as a student I spent the summers working as a guide in a well-known pilgrimage centre in southern France. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, not least because the place in which I worked needed only one person from each country to act as a guide for the people who spoke that language. Consequently, I was the only English person at the Youth Camp in the Pyrenees where we were housed. In the evenings, we all ate together and, even though we spoke in different languages (and I confess that English people are probably the worst in the world for mastering other languages – I stand in awe of those multi-lingual European, Asian and African friends!!), somehow we managed to communicate very clearly with one another and have some of the profound conversations that come with the fervour of youth!
Amid the laughter and the fun, we often joked about stereo-types (yes, the English were seen as undemonstrative, the Italians as ebullient, the Americans as friendly and so on and so on until we realised that we were playing our roles and laughed about it, hugged one another – or playing at being English, shook hands!) but one conversation recurred over and over again: how could we ever have been at war with each other? How could there ever be any wars, when people from all over the world enjoyed our differences, enjoyed laughing at ourselves, enjoyed learning about different ways of life and how things are in other countries...It reminded me very much of a garden filled with flowers of so many contrasting scents and colours but all blending together beautifully.

Ever since then, and from long before that, I have repeatedly asked myself the same question...how can there be wars when people are so interesting and so  good? Why must we clash when we could live in harmony? I think of the soldiers of opposing sides who played football with each other at Christmas in 1914 and imagine they, too, had the same thought, “Why are we killing each other? They are just like us!”

 For some time I have been working on the trilogy about the royalties in the First World War ‘Shattered Crowns’ and the more I learn, the more disgusted I am to discover the depths to which a very few people sank in order to gain control over many others for no other reason than to make up for their own sense of inadequacy and addiction to power. The same methods that they used to set the war in motion are still applied today. Firstly, create fear so people will listen to you. Secondly, give people an object for their fear (a nation or a terrorist group). Thirdly, do something dramatic and horrific to cause outrage in people so that they will agree to fight in the name of ‘right’. Once you have achieved that, you have your war. You can make a fortune from it in arms deals and financial takeovers and explain away the national debt, and at the same time take control of the natural resources of one country after another. It’s interesting, for example, that the Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany and Austria of the lands which were richest in resources....

 In the 1980s, as I recall, the whole of South America seemed to be in a state of endless revolutions and discord. One after another so-called tyrants were being toppled but at the same time I was hearing from groups like Christian Aid and CAFOD that the fruit-growers (the ordinary, good people who made a living from the land) were being driven out of their homes and livelihood were having their crops – worth millions of pounds and dollars- taken over by ‘foreign’ companies. Interesting, too, that this came at the time when we were first told we need to eat/drink ‘five a day’ fruit wise. Last Spring/Summer the Middle East was filled with revolutions and there are all kinds of oil deals going on...The myth of global warming (oops, sorry, that was blown out of the water, now we call it climate change) was losing its impact so we needed something else to scare us...and to make us cheer about the ‘downfall of tyrants’ – Hurrah! They killed Bin Laden! Hurrah, they killed Gaddafi! Hurrah they killed Saddam! And before that, hurrah they killed Nicholas II! Hurrah, they killed Charles I! Hurrah they killed...they killed....they killed...and still it goes on....

And one day we wake up and find ourselves in a Youth Camp in Lourdes where there are Germans, English, American, Rwandan, Lebanese, South African, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Australian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Iranian, Indian, Afghan, Iraqi, Mexican, Brazilian people (to name but a few!) sitting together, sharing ideas, appreciating differences...and it becomes clear that the people who think they rule the world are people of no nation beyond their own flimsy egos. We are not afraid of one another. We have no need to fear our neighbour. Most people are good and those who set out to destroy only do so to make up for their own sense of inadequacy.

Wouldn’t t it be wonderful if this could be the year to end war? When, rather than being built on murder and sacrifice and fear, the vision for the future is built on wisdom, toleration, beauty, appreciation of differences, confidence in our own innate loveliness and above all mutual respect? I believe it is possible if we believe in the innate goodness and Godliness of people, instead of believing in the darkness of others....

Friday 6 January 2012


As a small child you learn that if you touch fire it hurts a lot, and you’d be a fool to keep doing it....so you don’t do it again. Maybe you try once more...it hurts even more...the pain is greater and if you don’t learn after the third time, you’d learn it sooner or later and stop doing it. Why don’t we learn the same thing about wars and invasions and inflicting our views on other people?
The 20th century produced the two most horrific examples of mass slaughter ever known. While the average soldier believed at the time that he was fighting for truth or freedom or to protect the weak or some other great notion, the First World War was fought quite simply to keep bankers and industrialists happy, to give them more power and to overthrow those autocracies which would not allow their system of banking to operate. It sickens me immensely to think of the hundreds of thousands of families around the world who lost loved ones in that war. It sickens me that my grandmother believed to the end of her life that her beloved brother and brother-in-law who died in some dark shell-hole on the Somme died for some cause that seemed worthwhile at the time. I state this quite plainly: they died to allow certain banking families to gain control of the Russian and German banks; to prevent Germany from gaining access to oil in the Middle East; to destroy the Catholic Church’s hold over Austria-Hungary and the Orthodox Church’s control over Russia. This wasn’t a matter of one religion fighting another – it was rather a matter of realising that the strength of a belief is the most powerful force in the world and it was necessary to destroy those beliefs in order to gain complete control of a country...and its wealth and its resources and its banking.

Outside various English cities there are protests against capitalism. I think this is misguided. The people who protest know that something is very wrong. They know, as all the world knows, that we are all sick of war and we have no reason to kill one another. They know, too, that we are frequently presented with ‘paper tigers’ – supposed enemies who are created like bogeymen to scare children so that we will go on supporting wars. It’s not, to my mind, a matter of capitalism – after all, capitalism is freedom: it quite simply means that if you have an idea to create a business and people want what you are selling they can buy it and you can provide jobs and use your talents to the full.
Does the average American want to have anything to do with what is going on in Iran? Does the average British person have any idea about the history of Afghanistan...or Iraq for that matter? Had the average German person in 1914 any idea who Archduke Franz Ferdinand was? Had anyone in France even heard of Sarajevo?
When I was growing up, we were constantly warned of the imminent threat of a nuclear attack from Russia. At the same time, we were warned to beware of – and saw – the attacks of the IRA. These threats eventually faded but were very quickly replaced by threats from further afield....now we had to beware of attacks from other religious extremists....Why? Quite simply because if the people are afraid, they accept whatever they are told. If we are frightened, we will fight wars, believing we are being brave....we will accept that recessions are the fault of our overspending....we will go on putting our hands in the fire and so it continues....

Enough is enough. Haven't we learned yet?

What if we just stopped bothering? What if we all said: God bless the Hindus, the Moslems, the Christians, the Jews, the people of all denominations and beliefs, the atheists, the black people, the white people, the people of every shade of colour, the gay people, the straight people, the hot-heads and the apathetic...and then got on with our lives. There would be no need for war....there would be no need to listen to the liars who lead people into war...and the paper tigers would be seen in their true light and we could all get on with our lives.

2012 could be the most wonderful year. It could be the end of the world as we know it - the world that has been so marred by deceit and by war! Bring it on! It could be the year when we take away the blinkers and learn to respect and love our neighbour and stop listening to those who create only fear in order to achieve their own ends; and instead minded our own business and loved those around us and that would truly be the beginning of the world as we know it can be.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

So much has been written of 2012 and all kinds of stories are afoot. It seems to me that after the tumult of recent years (and by ‘recent’ I mean over 2 centuries or perhaps 2 millennia!) this year seems a perfect time to:

“....preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the year of favour, and the day of reward.”

 The shake-up in the belief in submission to the authority of governments, ministers, historical lies, wars...in fact the whole caboodle of those who provoke fear, seems to be drawing to a close. People of the past have seemed to love a leader as though we are incapable of thinking for ourselves and believing in our natural goodness, preferring to go along with a notion of original sin.

 What if tomorrow – New Year’s Day – we awake with the awareness of the dignity and brilliance of every other being on this planet and beyond? What if we no longer needed to rely on someone to tell us that we need to fear this terrorist or that economic decline? What if we return to our roots and reality and know that all is well, that we are love and we are loved and we can make this year very beautiful and very different from the slavery of dependence on others’ ideas....What a beautiful world this can be!

Whoever you are, if you read this, I wish you every blessing for 2012 and thank you for visiting my blog!

 With much love for you at the start of this brilliant New Year!