Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ribbons, a Frosty Hibiscus, and Extremism

We had snow yesterday morning! Huge, wet, fat clumps of snow that melted immediately upon touching the ground. Just barely snow at all -- I suppose a few degrees warmer and it would have been rain. But still.

I brought in our geranium and our venus flytrap, but I forgot to bring in our hibiscus. So now it looks a bit frostbitten, some of its leaves drying and curling. I think it will survive, though. I doubt that it got cold enough to damage the wood.

I sat inside with Olga during the slushy downpour and debated staying home from French class. I didn't really have a good reason, except that I was feeling lazy and didn't want to go out in that weather. In the end I went, and I'm glad, especially since I'm going to miss next weekend.

Afterwards I took a walk around Marylebone to find this shop, V.V. Rouleaux, which I'd heard about. It sells ribbons, trimmings and flowers, although I notice it also has women's hats, candles and even deer antlers in the window. It looks like a pretty eccentric place! I didn't go in -- I just wanted some photos. It took me a while to find it -- I thought it was on Marylebone High Street and I walked up and down in the clear wintry chill without success, before stumbling onto it in a side street.

At the risk of being a downer, and apropos of nothing I've mentioned above, I've gotta write about the reactions to the Paris attacks -- the bombing campaigns launched by France, the efforts to mount a European military response. I understand the desire to retaliate, because part of me feels the same desire. But I'm not sure bombs are going to do much good. Extremists, and people who lean toward extremism, are all around us, after all. They aren't easily contained and concentrated in one neat, bombable area. They're going to pop up here and there, the way the Mali hotel attackers subsequently did.

The only way to defeat extremism is with education and opportunity. That is the only way. Bombing campaigns just make extremists angrier, help them recruit and motivate them more.

The other day I read an article in The Nation that mentioned an extremist recruit who grew up in northern Iraq as one of seventeen (!) siblings, children from two wives of the same man. He was educated to a sixth-grade level. He had no friends outside his family. He was married with two children of his own, but an injury left him unable to work as a laborer, so he turned to ISIS to provide for his family. Although religious, he saw it merely as a job.

Likewise, extremists based in Europe -- where you'd think education and opportunity are more readily available -- don't see much of a future for themselves. Maybe they can't take advantage of school because they get mired in drugs or feel discrimination or they're just not academically astute. Maybe they are raised in angry or abusive households. They fixate on cultural differences, blame them for their problems and fight back.

The millions and millions of people crammed into ragged, war-torn countries -- or living on a shoestring in dreary European suburbs -- must be shown that they have something to live for here on Earth. Otherwise, they'll be on a constant quest for a better afterlife.


  1. I agree with you Steve. We have to believe that members of The Islamic State and their scattered supporters are human beings just like us and therefore we can find ways of engaging them peacefully - talking with them, breaking down barriers. Random assaults from the air and the largely unreported deaths of thousands of innocent civilians (collateral damage) is surely not the best way to arrive at a peaceful solution to all this hurt.

    Oh and I am disappointed you didn't step inside that amazing shop.

  2. That shop is quite a sight to see!
    I also agree with you about extremists.

  3. That shop is extraordinary! Antlers in the window and women's hats says it all, it is a destination place for sure! On a much smaller scale the gangstahs of California, are much like daesh, without the god complex. Lost youth looking for a way to survive and belong. Then it is too late, one does not just leave with life intact. family is threatened or killed, in the end the brotherhood is for a larger agenda. Power, no matter what, scary, unpredictable, no regard for anything other than the afterlife and getting their god and sharia law in save humanity, you understand,allah akbar and all...Bush and his thugs rattled that hornets next , tried to shake it down to zero for no good reason.They should be held accountable. They should be sent to Syria as a peace offering.

  4. I'm impressed that the shop keeps the ribbons outdoors so fresh and crisp looking. they must change them often. and i agree with you about the bombs. an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

  5. Well said on extremists. There's also a historical aspect as most of these areas were ruled under colonialism and when countries left, they left a mess. Globalization isn't helping the situation. So many improvements have to be made. I don't think I'll live to see any great change.

  6. love the shop and the ribbons and you are right on about the extremists. when there is no opportunity, extremism is the only option. we created the hate and anger when we destroyed Iraq (really it started before then with our constant imperialism in our quest for their oil). creating more destruction and instability as a response only breeds more hate and extremism. it's astonishing that the powers that be don't get it.

  7. I have flat out given up on humanity.

    This does not address US imperialism and greed but ...

  9. I think I would have had to purchase a ribbon, just because... or a hat!

    I agree about the response to terrorism - education & opportunity... and that goes for poor people here in the US who consistently vote against their own interests - they need education & opportunity too!

  10. I don't know (and I truly DON'T know, but I am trying to figure things out) but it seems to me that the young people in IS may already be lost to the solutions of education and opportunity. Their views are so extreme and their wealth and power so dangerously used. It seems that many of them are beyond any help they would accept. For upcoming generations, yes, education and a chance for a good life would help so much. And I believe wholly that we are too many people on this planet, a view I think I've seen you express here. As our population continues to grow, resources that could give every person on the planet a decent life are stretched thinner. And we can't forget the sheer greed for power that some people have, whether their circumstances are good or bad. It's a complicated issue, and that is the biggest understatement of the century.

  11. That shop is something else. How do they cope with rain?

    A couple of years ago, I attended a speech by the former Irish president and then head of UNHCR, Mary Robinson, where she said: "- you cannot fight a war on terror without also fighting a war on disadvantage, discrimination and despair. Security, development and human rights are inextricably linked."

    I don't for a minute believe that all terrorists are disadvantaged young men from impoverished areas - atta was a middle class garduate student and I am certain that brains of a sort are behind the recent attacks - but the young uneducated man are the fodder, they pull the triggers and do the dirty work. The fact that two thirds of the Syrian children and teenagers in refugee camps in Turkey have no access to education is a time bomb.

  12. Food for thought there Steve - I could go on about this. I don't have a solution, there is no quick fix and most of your commenters (?) have already covered the topic.

    Bombable? Really? I love that word...

    And the shop. Colourful innit?

    Ms Soup

  13. York: As Sting said, the Russians love their children too!

    Sharon: What my photos don't capture is the wonderful movement of all those ribbons in the wind.

    Linda Sue: I never considered the gang similarity. That's an interesting idea!

    37P: Yeah, I don't know how they do it!

    Red: Absolutely, the colonial legacy is responsible for a lot of this conflict -- the inability of Middle East nations to form their own natural boundaries and launch their own governments.

    Ellen: Indeed, it goes back farther than Iraq, though Iraq was a particularly grievous example of disastrously harmful meddling.

    Ms Moon: Don't do that! :)

    Bug: Absolutely. Education and opportunity should be afforded to all!

    Jenny-O: Yeah, education and opportunity are the big-picture answers over a period of time. I don't mean them as immediate answers to specific recent acts or existing terrorist threats. We still need law enforcement and judicial systems to deal with the folks already working with IS. But we need to deal with them openly and justly, unlike the United States and its Guantanamo prison, which in my opinion is a travesty of justice. And yes, overpopulation and resource scarcity issues are a HUGE part of this -- I didn't get onto that subject because I felt like I'd already written plenty!

    Sabine: People often bring up Atta as an example of someone who had opportunities and threw them away. But he's why I mentioned living in an abusive household. From all I've read about him, he grew up in an extremely strict, cold environment -- I think it could be argued he was emotionally abused, if not outright mentally ill.

    Ms Soup: I would not use "bombable" in polite society. I think I made it up.