26 February 2011

The Arab Revolt 2011

The manner in which the many Arab nations are revolting against the tyranny and repression of their various regimes in, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya is as encouraging as it is frightening. I remarked in an earlier post (see Egypt) how I feared for friends in Cairo. Here I am pleased to report that they are all well, but it is their future which worries me.

No Arab nation has hitherto had a democratic form of government. In Iran for example where in 1979 the people overthrew a dictatorial monarch, they ended up with an even worse and more blood thirsty Islamic Revolution. In Algeria, some 20 odd years ago, when the Islamists won a democratic election pledging to abolish democracy, the army stepped in to stop it and plunged Algeria into a bloody conflict which lasted some 10 years.

More recently in Palestine in 2005 when Hamas won a decisive election and took control of Gaza, they got rid of all opposition and have not bothered to hold free elections since. So what form of governments can we expect to replace the current ones in Arabia? In most of these countries there are no effective opposition parties.The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is banned, and yet if they are permitted to take part in an election are likely to win it. A secular liberal government is unlikely to emerge if they do. Already the interim rulers in Egypt have established contact with Iran and allowed the Iranian Navy to transit the Suez Canal for the first time in 30 years!

To my mind only Jordan could emerge with a proper democratic and secular government, but then only if King Abdullah follows the example of King Juan Carlos of Spain, who in 1981 defeated an attempted military coup and gave Spain a true democratic government. King Abdullah will need to oversee and manage the process himself, or else he might find himself being deposed as well. 

The Umayyad Mosque Damascus

There is only one Muslim nation with a more or less secular government and that is Turkey. I would wish that the USA and the EU encourage Turkey to lead here and help these Arab nations in establishing political parties as well as free and fair elections, for they are more likely to listen to advice from another Muslim nation, than they are to the USA or the EU. It is important that these nations do something to help and not just sit on the side lines and watch developments. The Allies after the Second World War supervised the democratization of Germany and Japan. A success story. During the French and Russian Revolutions the world sat and watched both countries disintegrate into a blood bath. The former led also to the rise of Napoleon and War in Europe which lasted years, the latter was even more bloody and led to the formation of the Soviet Union and the Cold War which lasted over 60 years.

That the youth of Arabia through their access to the Internet and Facebook et al, are leading the way does not mean it will end well if we do nothing. Any revolution is a magnet to youth in the beginning, but they are susceptible to being used and abused by unscrupulous people hungry for power for themselves. Turkey and the rest of the world must do all they can to encourage and help good leadership to emerge and to supervise free and fair elections.

Any new birth is painful and what will emerge in these Arab states is unclear, but it is our duty to encourage and help the development of all new nations, just as we do our children.

24 February 2011

zu Guttenberg

I was asked today what the English felt about the Guttenberg scandal and I had to admit I did not know. I had not heard it mentioned on the radio nor had I read any English newspapers this week. All I could do was give my own opinion, which I do again now.

Since the majority of my readers outside Germany are in the USA, UK, Singapore, Thailand, Macau, Cyprus and Egypt I wonder too what they think. To be sure it means little in the scheme of things to them.

The first question I asked myself concerning the plagiarism was, why had the university of Bayreuth not discovered the faults in his dissertation?  It was first completed in August 2006 and the university then had to evaluate the work which they  did by passing it and by giving him excellent marks and his now defunct Doctor title. So what did they do in the evaluation? Why did they not see the "mistakes" he made and return his work for correction? Surely the person or persons responsible for the evaluation in the university should now be called to question. If this is an example of how little university's check dissertations then how many other Doctors are saying to themselves, "there but for the grace of God, go I!"

That up to now Guttenberg has cut a fine figure and excels in selling himself is without question, one only needs to look at his web site to see that. Has it permanently damaged his image in Germany? Not at the moment, the majority of the public stand behind him, which just goes to show what a good job he has done in selling himself. 

As an outsider living in Germany I ask, who was the whistle blower and who paid him or her? Why has it come out now, when the work was first published in 2009? Strangely no newspapers are asking these questions. The opposition parties, without exception have all jumped on the band wagon to call Guttenberg a lier and a cheat and to demand his resignation.  To my mind those who live in glass houses should not be the first to throw stones, but then I, thankfully, am not a politician.!

17 February 2011


Have you ever volunteered for anything? I have, on more than one occasion, but more on that in a minute. Can our society survive without volunteers? And how do we motivate people to volunteer in the first place? I am particularly interested in the latter as I have to motivate one member of my English conversation class to volunteer to act as the class spokesperson.  

Just Googling the word volunteer shows how important these people have become in our world. Students and fully trained adults, volunteer to serve in Third World countries in all sorts of jobs and I have discovered that people can even volunteer to serve for short times instead of a holiday, paying for the privilege. I am not so certain I can be so altruistic as to do that, at this time in my life, but if I were younger I would choose to go with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) or some such organisation. In fact I have discovered that there are more organisations placing volunteers than you can shake a stick at! Our society would certainly lose a lot if we did not have these volunteers.

I joined the Army as a young man, so one could say I volunteered. Certainly the training sergeants always remarked when the going got tough, "If you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined." And when they needed some dirty job done they asked for volunteers, "You, you and you!" On the basis you volunteered to join so you volunteered for every job going. Official wisdom amongst the soldiers was that one should never volunteer!

I volunteered recently to participate in the FIFA Women's World Cup Football Competition which takes place in Germany this year. At the time I was also asked if I were prepared to help out at the U20 Women's World Cup Football Competition which took place last year.  I said yes as I felt if I said no they would never consider me for the main event. I never regretted it, but gained in knowledge of how FIFA is organised and also gained in experience of what actually takes place in a football stadium, never having been to a first class football match, up to that moment. They selected me to be a Team leader of volunteers. It was not a purely altruistic reason why I joined. I joined for my own personal development and to enhance my experience of life at an international sports event.  

So how do I motivate one of my English students to volunteer to be the class spokesperson?  I can't offer them any form of incentive, like you get to watch a first class football game, or you get to wear a FIFA T-Shirt, so if I cannot persuade one we might have to draw straws! 
My Volunteer Team Bielefeld 2010

11 February 2011


Today my new Arabic Language book arrived. :-) I needed a new one because Hanna and I have booked ourselves in to go back to Krefeld to continue our Arabic language study after almost a year away. Do you like books? I love them. In fact I should not really be allowed into bookshops any more, for I find a book bargain one of the hardest things to resist. 

When I was still living the gypsy life and moving every 18 months or so, I would throw away books as well as quite a lot of other "unessential" things. Who decides what is unessential? 

When I was 12, before yet another move, my mother made me get rid of my fleet of AIR-FIX WWII aeroplanes which hung from the ceiling in my room. Each one had been lovingly made and painted by me. She complained they collected dust, but my 12 year old brain never saw any. So I took them all up to the 4th floor of the block of flats we lived in at the time, cut holes in the fuselages, stuffed these with cotton wool, impregnated them with lighter fluid lit them and threw them off one by one, to die a glorious death on the concrete 4 floors below.

I remember well too, discovering at the same time (aged 12) my parents version of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" by DH Lawrence between the sheets in the linen cupboard which fortuitously was just outside the bathroom. When home alone I would take it and lock myself into the bathroom to read it. Strangely like my aeroplanes this book never made it to the next place we moved to.

Books, before a move, were discarded in a more inglorious fashion by throwing them in the dustbin! Today it seems a sacrilege to do such a thing, rather like Hitler burning books which people should not read. So now that I am settled and do not intend to move my humble abode, I keep every book and lots of other things as well.

I believe each of us go through phases in life, as adults just as much as children. The phases in my life are mirrored in the books I have. They say that ones home is a window to the soul. Well a home without a book is to my mind a soulless home. So there are books on; riding; mountaineering, that is rock climbing and snow and ice climbing; shooting and hunting with guns; survival; ocean sailing; the history of seafaring; cooking; world history; military history; teddy bears (I collect them) travel; photography; poetry; Shakespeare; English literature; opera; music; encyclopaedias; Arabic and Arabic history; and religion to name but the most important to me still.

Some of my books are very special, like the three books I received as prizes at school for doing well in geography, biology and the German language. Or the 2 books on riding given to me in Salzburg where I learnt to ride. Or the Koran given to me by a friend in Cairo. In fact I have two copies, but this one is very special as it not only contains the original Arabic plus English translation, but the phonetic version, just in case you do not read Arabic but want to read the Koran aloud in Arabic. Others are old like the very large 150 year old copy of the Bible and the St James version of the Book of Common Prayer. 

Then there are the many novels which lie three deep on my shelves. Here my taste is eclectic. I read Maeve Binchy as avidly as Alexander Kent. In fact I am reading her book "Firefly Summer" at the moment and loving every minute of it. The book I read before that was "Hitler, a Study in Tyranny" by Alan Bullock, which I found interesting and enlightening. My next book to read will be the German version of "Sorry Columbus" by Heinke Sudhoff about the discovery of America before 1492! 

I dare say that a younger modern person might tell me that I no longer need the space for all these books.With an iPad in my hand I would have the whole library of Alexandria and every other library for that matter at my disposal.Tthis may well be true, but it is the sheer pleasure I get in owning a good book that can't be beat by an iPad..

5 February 2011


Do you believe in "fate"? Is there a plan for our lives? Or are our lives governed by our individual "KARMA"? Without getting too deeply into religion, I believe that we are all given a free will to chose what happens and so each of us is personally responsible for what happens in our lives. Both good and bad. I do believe in "cause and affect", that is to say our choices and the actions we take causes reactions and affects, either in others or in circumstances that surround us now and in the future. My father, for example was born in a Monks town in England and died in a Monks town in Germany. Coincidence or his Karma?

Past events have a bearing on our now. If WW II had not happened I would not exist for example. (see About Me for why.) I believe also that certain events and circumstances in families repeat themselves. My great great grandfather was illegitimate, so was I; I had to quickly get married too, to prevent a recurrence of this "karma"!

My German grandmother had a great influence on my early life. She was proud to have been born in Hamburg, a city she loved. She would tell me stories of Hamburg, "the gateway to the world" as it is still known, because of its deep water port. Small boys love pirate stories and she told me of the infamous German pirate Klaus Störtebeker. When I was about 10 or 11 she gave me a navy Captain's hat with gold braid on its visor. I lived in this hat and could be found playing sailor  with a hula hoop with old fashioned pegs on it which represented the wheel of my clipper ship. When she saw me thus, and asked what I was doing, I replied that, "I was sailing around the world, from Hamburg the gateway to the world!" My own "Karma" was perhaps decided  that day.

37 years later I found a run down 16 1/2 ton steel ketch in Finkenwerder, Hamburg named KARMA.

Yacht KARMA 1995 in Kiel Fjord

Me and KARMA off the Coral Coast of Australia 2000

I bought it and eventually did sail it around the world from Hamburg. You will find a German version about the adventures I had on this 4  and a half year epic at http://www.karmasailing.de/Weltumseglung%20Teil%201.htm

If there is sufficient interest in the English speaking world I'll  post an English version as extra pages to this Blog. Just let me know.

So I'd say I fulfilled my own "karma". I'd be interested to hear of the "karma" in your life, or your thoughts on this aspect of life.