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Forgotten

March 13, 2011 1 comment

It was recently announced that Wikileaks has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Julian Assange continues to struggle with the wrath of the US government, the international media and Swedish prosecutors in his pursuit of what John Pilger calls ‘the insurrection of knowledge’.  Debates rage around the world about the nature of individual freedom, free speech, the right of the people to know what our governments are doing, the role of the internet in exposing injustice and state excesses.

In the mean time 23 year old US Soldier Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking secrets to Wikileaks, is in a high security military prison in Virginia in the US.  He doesn’t have the celebrity support, bail money or media attention that Assange has and is facing up to 52 years in prison.  he is being kept in solitary confinement and his physical and mental health are deteriorating.

This is from an article about Bradley Manning in the New Statesman:

Manning is under a Prevention of Injury (POI) order, which limits his social contact, exercise, sleep and access to external stimuli such as newspapers or  television (Manning had no idea of the impact the WikiLeaks release was having until House told him). He spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell. The hour he is allowed out, he is taken to an empty room and walks in circles. If he is caught exercising in his cell, he is forced to stop. At night, Manning is stripped to his underwear and has to sleep under blankets that he says give him carpet burn. He is usually woken several times throughout the night by guards. POI orders are usually issued when prisoners present a risk to themselves or others and are supposed to be temporary. Manning has been under the order since he arrived at the Brig in July.  (http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2011/03/manning-house-held-base-iraq)

Bradley Manning does not know when his situation will change, if things will get better for him, or worse.  He is in prison because he did what he thought was the right thing.  It seems he understood the impact of his actions, but he went ahead and did what he felt he had to do.

There is nothing I feel I can say about this situation, except the Manning is one of many people, forgotten and not forgotten, suffering the most inhuman treatment while we – myself included – stand by and do nothing.

Perhaps two very heroic men can say more about it than me. So I will leave it to them:

The True Prison

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell.
It is not the clank of the key
As the warder locks you in.
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for man or beast
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not
It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for one generation’
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing in her book
Punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral ineptitude
Mental decreptitude
Lending dictatorship spurious legitimacy
Cowardice asked as obedience.
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
We dare not wash off our urine
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison.

Ken Saro Wiwa (1941 – 1995) Nigerian Poet, TV Producer and Environmental campaigner, executed by the Nigerian Government after a military tribunal for campaigning against Oil companies and for the rights of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


**

It’s Also Fine

It’s also fine to die in our beds

on a clean pillow

and among our friends.

It’s fine to die, once,

our hands crossed on our chests

empty and pale

with no scratches, no chains, no banners,

and no petitions.

It’s fine to have an undusty death,

no holes in our shirts,

and no evidence in our ribs.

It’s fine to die

with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheeks,

our hands resting in those of our loved ones,

surrounded by desperate doctors and nurses,

with nothing left but a graceful farewell,

paying no attention to history,

leaving this world as it is,

hoping that, someday, someone else

will change it.

Mourid Barghouti (b. 1944) Palestinian Poet and Writer

Seamus & St Kevin

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

St Kevin and the Blackbird by Seamus Heaney

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

*

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in Love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

…………………………………………………………….

And here he is, reading it himself, and it is a delight, and he explains that the poem is about ‘doing the right thing for the reward of doing the right thing’.

Read more…