Joe Stead - The Ramblings of an old Codger. Volume Sixteen - January 2002.

Let me start by wishing you all a very Happy 2002. This year just passed has been an unhappy year for the world. Certainly not a year to forget however. It's good to put bad times behind us - but let us not forget them, we must all try to learn from our bad experiences. Let me thank all of you too for the many good wishes and encouragement about 'The Ramblings'. A whole bunch of you wrote to say that you don't always agree with me - but it was kind of you all to say hello and wish me the very best for 2002. For some strange reason you all want the Ramblings to continue into this next year as well and you seem to be encouraging me to continue to be provocative with it! Well let's see what January brings!

Early in the New Year I have the following venues in my diary. Jan 17th. The Steamer Hotel, Fleetwood Jan 27th Doctor Browns Folk Club, Middlesbrough Jan 28th The Sun Inn, Stockton on Tees

Feb 1st The Dog and Partridge, Bollington

Feb 2nd The Railway Tavern, Hensall (Kimber's Men)

Feb 6th The Gordon Hotel, Rochester

Feb 7th The Crypt, Bishops Stortford.

On Wednesday 9th January I'm filming in Liverpool. Apparently I'm a tramp in a TV programme called "Nice Guy Eddie"

I'm a little later than usual this month. Nora and myself spent Christmas in Lanzarote. Nora won a free holiday in the sun and we grabbed it with both hands. I've never swum in the sea on Christmas Day before - so that was a 'first' for me. We've come back to a boiler that dosen't work, drains that don't drain and a pond that our darling neighbourhood children thought they would vandalise and fill with stones whilst we were away. Why British children need to do such wanton acts of destruction is beyond me.

Well I blame the schools myself. I mean it can't be the fault of the parents can it?

The war in Afghanistan appears to be going in the direction that most westerners had hoped and I have to confess both to surprise and to being wrong at how quickly the Al Qaeda forces conceded. Perhaps with the concentrated bombing they had to endure it is not surprising. I would imagine that being continually bombed day in and day out (without fighting

back) does not constitute a martyrs death. But even as I write and click the SEND button it all appears to be kicking off now between India and Pakistan. I just hope the Western Forces (and yes that includes America) keep their noses out of it. We've got to keep our noses trained to the ground to pick up the problems that Bin Laden will almost certainly lay at our doors soon. The British Muslim (of Caribbean and English parentage by the way) who tried to blow up a plane bound for Boston is I fear but the first of many to follow.

Twelve months ago, lamenting the state of education in this country, I suggested that David Blunkett would be better off as Home Secretary.

Little did I think that this would happen or that I would be so delighted with his proposals if and when he got there. Whilst the education system has not yet improved under New Labour Blunkett's attitude towards immigrants and those of a foreign persuasion has been enlightening. I cannot see how his ideas are fuelling the fascists and racists among us.

If I were to go to live in America, or any other country, I would expect to act in a manner acceptable to my new fellow countrymen. Why then do some Muslims come from Asia and expect to be treated as if they were still living in their original country? If Britain is to be their new home they must adapt as quickly as possible. (I for one could never understand why Sikh's, circa 1965ish, were allowed to wear turbans on motor cycles whilst the rest of the population was forced to wear crash helmets - be it a good idea or not). Of course it is good that we should have an exchange of cultures, but continually endorsing a culture that is foreign to the host country only exacerbates those of a racist nature to continue with their evil ways.

Asian cooking is a delight and I have no problem that Muslims wish to fast between dawn and sunset at certain times of the year, or that they use a different place to worship, or that they are clever enough to exploit our

social service system in the manner that they do. It's not their problem

that we have gigantic loopholes in our social service system that allows many of them benefits that others seem to ignore or have not bothered to examine. Many Asians work from dawn till sunset anyway and they are prepared to offer us services in the form of late night corner shopping and food establishments that we would sorely miss if they were to disappear.

They have taken jobs in our mills and factories that the English did not want. They happily drive our taxis, which was not a job I enjoyed in the 1980's when short of money.

But, notwithstanding that and not withstanding my desire to make friends with as many of the Muslim faith as possible, my experience of Muslims has not altogether been good. As far as being on first name terms I'm limited to the waiters in my local Asian restaurant. When I am not singing I arrange mortgages for folk who cannot get a mortgage from a normal established bank or building society. This introduces me to a lot of Muslims who still consider Pakistan to be their true home and I have to confess that the majority of them are often strangers to the truth, or at least the truth as I see it. I have come to the conclusion that this is not just because I'm a 'whitey'. I think they are equally devious amongst themselves as well. They tell me they have no mortgage arrears when in truth they are nine months in arrears, they tell me they have never been taken to court for bad debt when a simple credit search shows they have 6 CCJ's registered against their names. Now why do they do this? Do they think I'm an idiot? Do they think all British people are idiots? Or are the Muslim Asians that I meet just habitual liars? A number of years ago I got so fed up with the continual problems I was experiencing with Asian clients that I employed an Asian (Pakistani) gentleman to work for me. His name was Ali. Ali's sole job was to deal with the Asian community that I seemed unable to deal. After 6 months he gave up. He had not secured one mortgage. "Joe" he said "They lie to me as well". Being the astute business men that they are I came to the conclusion that they were simply using me as a yard stick. Once they had determined the best price they loaned the money from within their own community at a cheaper rate. Well I can't blame them for that. But I wasted a lot of time, energy and funds helping them.

Nora works in a Church of England School which has long ago opened its doors and now has a intake that is 30% Muslim. (In a way it has become a contradiction of terms). Nora might see a Muslim child stick a sharp pencil, or other instrument, into the arm of another child. She will reprimand the child for doing this, whereupon the child (normally a boy) will, more often than not look, Nora straight in the face and deny having done it, or will blame some other completely innocent child for causing the problem. Nora has seen the child do it, the child knows that Nora has seen him do it, but he still denies it. He stands there and tells bare faced lies. Why? Indians don't do this. English children (be they black or

white) don't do this.

Muslim boys (even those aged 8/9/10) consider Nora to be second class to them because of her sex. Sexual equality is not something that comes easy to a Muslim and this will take a lot of breaking down, especially while their own women folk consider themselves to be second class.

Let us take an extreme case. Safiya Huseini is a 36 year old woman with an illegitimate child. She is under sentence to death by stoning for adultery. Her fate, if the world allows it, will be to be either buried up to her neck or thrown into a pit and then pelted with stones until she is dead. Safiya is actually divorced but under Islamic sharia law the crime is the same as if she were still married. The man with whom she committed adultery has two wives himself and cannot be proven guilty as the act of intercourse was not witnessed by four other men. The lesser charge of fornication, punishable by 100 lashes, only applies to virgins. The father of the child originally admitted to being the father, but refuses to marry the poor woman or to contribute to the upkeep of her child. He withdrew the admission when the case came to court and because the sexual act was not witnessed he has walked free. This is Sharia Muslim law. Safiya lives in Nigeria and has "committed her fate to the hands of Allah!"

This of course is the same Allah that we all saw continually being praised by the travelling fawning sheikh who was making a fuss of Osama bin Laden in the recent film captured in Afghanistan. It's a funny old religion alright. Or is it not the fault of the religion at all? Is it simply evil men using an outdated system to fuel their own ends? Is Safiya leaving her fate in the Hands of Allah? She thinks she is. I think not.

A recent television programme hosted by Bonnie Greer from America highlighted my earlier comments about Americans being ignorant of world affairs. A bunch of students were asked to explain where Pakistan was.

One thought Pakistan was a part of south east Europe, another thought it adjoined Israel, where a third thought it was a long strip of land adjoining Afghanistan (But did not know where Afghanistan was). Then a couple of hours later ex President (Mr) Clinton gave an enlightening speech about America needing to wake up to world affairs. Do Americans walk around with their heads in the clouds? I rest my case.

Letters continue to arrive. Some agreeing with me, some finding fault.

Good I enjoy receiving both. Here are just a few of them .............

 

Dear Joe

Good to (continue to) hear from you.

Debra Cowan is a good friend, and a singer in the tradition...old ballads and ballads that sound old. And to think that I grew up in NYC listening weekly to Oscar Brand at 6PM on Sunday nights while (i.e., whilst) having dinner with my parents, who listened respectfully. You are a brave guy to get into the political fray. I merely want to know why reputable manufacturers of musical instruments, namely, guitars, continue to use Brazilian rosewood on their 'top of the line' instruments, charging enormous amounts of money, while they make other models aimed at recognition of the dwindling supply of other rare woods, namely, Brazilian rosewood! We, the enlightened singers and songwriters, buy these things, too. If we get to the root of this issue, thereby decoding the puzzle of decadence, we shall have the answer to world peace. I think the answer is, "a mahogany guitar is okay." I asked this question of Acoustic Guitar Magazine and they did not respond. Well, Old Codger, keep it going. Get over here to the states so we can work out a nice schedule for you up here in Boston, location of the world's least safe airport. My partner and I would love to do a bit of a tour over there. (You can hear Fishken & Groves at www.cdfreedom.com by searching on our names or on the album, Going To The West.)

Best to you...

(David) Fishken (USA)

 

 

Dear Joe:

I agree with you:

1. That we are talking out of both sides of our mouths-anyone who supports terrorists should not be talking about stamping out terrorism; 2. Bin Laden should be slain quickly for the reasons you gave-Machiavelli was right about this type of thing almost 600 years ago! 3. Did we learn nothing from Vietnam? Kissinger's concept of a Limited War only works when both sides find it in their best interest to limit it. 4. Keep on singing. Steven R. Sproger (USA)

 

 

Dear Joe,

As an American e-mail acquaintance, I appreciate the newsletter. I think a lot of your observations are spot on. A problem I see here is that if you voice an objection to the current military campaign, you are suddenly accused of believing that the world trade center and pentagon people "had it coming."

That is not something I believe. My singing partner, Margaret, went to a peace vigil in Chicago not too long ago. Other than discovering that there seems to be a need for new, singable, demonstration songs ("Let There Be Peace on Earth" doesn't quite cut it) she thought that singing did bring a sense of community to the gathering. Unfortunately, the next demonstration was hijacked by the loud, pre-printed slogan, bullhorn brigade, leaving no room for quieter dissenters. The situation is sticky here right now.

Audiences seem glad to come out and see us perform. We haven't really

changed our repertoire, we always have liked songs that are thought provoking. There's a need for cathartic entertainment and a need to laugh, as incongruous as that sounds. Keep the ramblings coming. --Phil Cooper (USA)

 

Dear Joe,

Thanks for the opportunity to reply to your thoughtful, if erroneous, blather re 9/11. Taking your points in order, let me assure you that the "..reasons...why they planned such an outrageous act.." have nothing to do with politics, economics or protest. The perpetrators of this horror, like the skyjackers and the bus depot bombers and the brave raiders of schoolbuses, are religious zealots who are offended by a non Muslim state in their holy land. They have no more interest in Palestinian rights than George Bush has in health care. {They didn't care about Palestinians before 1947, when the disputed lands were owned by absentee Egyptian and Syrian landlords.} These homicidal true believers are what Israel fears and they are the major block to a Palestinian state and peace in the region. You may have noticed that terrorist activity increases every time an Arab-Israeli accord is reached. The zealots will never tolerate a Jewish state. They won't even accept a secular Arab state. (Witness Iran, Algeria, Iraq and the constant foment in Jordan and Lebanon). Anyone who thinks that Israel wants to continue living in an atmosphere of perpetual preparedness doesn't know Israelis. Still, we prefer tension to annihilation. If you think that sacrificing Israel will buy peace, you are as wrong as Neville Chamberlain was. Ours is a fragile world that exists in a swirl of threats and perils. It is only by establishing law that we can achieve even the illusion of security. The U.S. is not Utopia, neither is it Sodom, Hell or Klingon. It is as moral a world power as has ever been. Which is to say that the U.S. is envied, emulated, reviled and revered. We take advantage of our position to give ourselves a good material existence. We insure ourselves plenty of food and fuel at affordable prices. We provide for our poor sufficiently if not with equality, with limited abundance. We exploit other nations but, surely less than other super powers (including England, when you could). All in all, we are not saints but we are a lot better than we have to be. We have compassion for other nations. When a disaster hits anywhere, Americans are in the forefront of relief and assistance. I don't remember other nations offering aid to starving Americans during our Great Depression or when our southern states are decimated by hurricanes or floods. The U.S. houses the United Nations. We provide land, services and police protection for a UN that often is a forum for those who most oppose us. Hell, we even pay the lion's share in dues.

I'm kind of proud to be an American and an Israeli. Warts and all, I think that my teams are doing a heck of a job.

Mike Miller (USA)

 

 

 

Hi Joe ;

I merely wanted to thank you for the Email of your ramblings. The greater part of which, I wholeheartedly endorse. There are some things; I may not agree with but that is the whole point we need a forum; if you agree with everything put before you your brain has stopped working and your value system has been suspended. Which is precisely what is happening these days. We no longer have a System of Government that tolerates debate and the holding of opinions that run contrary to the accepted "norm". The tragedy is this is not " A Tory Government "; but the tattered remains of what used to be a Labour Party. {We dare not use the term Socialist these days. Even the use of the term Labour without the description "New"; would be enough to give, Blair, palpitations.} The Press by and large merely trots out the accepted line. So it's good to have someone thinking the unthinkable and saying it; and so provoking others to think about what is happening. The current news, of the atrocities committed against the prisoners taken; should give people room for thought and the need to question what is being done in Our Name. Bush said at the outset if you are not with us you are against us. It is time to remember that statement and make that decision........What Price War Crimes Tribunals and Courts NOW! Well I shall curtail my "ramblings" now and thank you again for sharing yours with us.

Mike O'Leary-Johns PS. Just to enable you to put a "Face" to the name. We met at the benefit weekend "Do" for Mick Tems. I was singing with Mainbrace and Roy Harris. We spoke briefly outside. My regret was that I could not come back down to see you later in the day. Perhaps next time you are in S.Wales you could let me know, or anywhere in striking distance would do. All the best Mike (angrianan@btopenworld.com)

 

 

Dear Joe-

Regarding some of your statements in you last "Codger", which was enjoyable as always, let me posite the possibility that a lot of Americans may not be quick to come forth with statements, either pro or con the Afghanistan war perhaps due to the need for an assessment of beliefs and of the facts. Your readership is most likely not incredibly "mainstream" as it were, and these are intelligent and passionate people. In some cases, we have a lot of catching up to do in terms of understanding what the Taliban is, whom Bin Laden is, and the multitudinal dynamics occurring in the Middle East. It's a complex situation, the likes as may not have ever been seen before in modern times, and Americans have been fed little information in our media as to what has been occurring for the past 25 years (for

instance- many Americans believe that there is a "new" and more westernized government in Iran, and have little idea that Tehran has been one of the chief state sponsors of exported terrorism). I, of course, don't speak on behalf of any American except my self, but I am of the opinion that this might be, at least in part, true. With that said, allow me to forward some quotes to you which I believe illustrate some of the urgency of this situation: -an excerpt from the Fatwa (a decree issued by a religious leader which becomes a mandatory call to action for the believers) of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman: "Cut all links with the United States. Destroy them thoroughly and erase them from the face of the Earth. Ruin their economies, set their companies on fire, turn their conspiracies to powder and dust. Sink their ships, bring their planes down. Slay them in the air, on land, on water. And with the Command of Allah, kill them wherever you find them. Catch them and put them in prison. Lie in wait for them and kill these infidels.

They will surely get great oppression from you. God will make you the means of wreaking a terrible revenge against them. He will cure the afflicted hearts of the faithful and take all anger out of their hearts." * Apparently, copies of this Fatwa are available at religious schools throughout Pakistan and are highly sought after.

- an excerpt from Fatwa of the World Islamic Front:

" The ruling to kill the American and their allies- civilians and military- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque

(Jerusalem) and the Holy Mosque (Mecca) from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim... We- with God's help- call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it. We call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan's US troops, and the devil's supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson."

*

The World Islamic Front is a joining together of various Islamist terrorist organizations throughout Iran, Sudan, and Pakistan. It has recently been known as the World Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. It is well financed and has great numbers. Its networks reach deeply into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Albania, and many of the Gulf States.

(* my source for these quotes in this instance is Yossef Bodansky's "Bin Laden, the Man Who Declared War on America", 1999 Forum).

Whether American foreign policy has created or not this hatred and anger is, albeit necessary of review and action on the part of the US government in the near future, somewhat irrelevant from the standpoint that the jihad has been launched (and has been insidiously underway for some time now), and it is hard to believe that the World Front, or many of the other scores of Islamist organizations (and other anti-American factions that support them as well) are interested in bringing their anger to a discussion forum. I write this as yet another warning from the American homeland security is being issued to the people of the United States. It is easy to believe that there will be further terror occurring here in the US, and that our country is now better understanding what peoples of so many nations have had to deal with for so many decades. If something should happen to me personally, it comes with an understanding that there are simply times when history will overtake us like a great wave, and we must either swim or drown in its salty influence.

As a student of history to some small degree, I can easily see parallels to the conflicts and rising evil that occurred in Europe during the 1930's. Could an earlier call to arms, as opposed to a rancid diplomatic selling out of nations (i.e. Poland) have secured a greater stability and perhaps impeded the rise of totalitarianism at that time? It pains me deeply that with ideals and words being so transparent and abstract, so many people must die horrible deaths, if only to change the policy of a nation that is often represented by a government far removed from its people's understanding.

And as a musician (I use that term with my tongue buried deeply within my cheek), I find it very difficult to find pleasure in music at this time, or the desire to compose. It is hard to sing when so many people are without homes, without food, and perhaps without hope. I will perhaps turn to the brighter tunes of others to help me maintain an optimism that rational and passionate thoughts will once again meld into action that will bring about the changes needed to squelch the fires and create a greater understanding between peoples. Until then, I will tend to the welfare of my family and pray for peace.

Charles Dube (USA)

dube107@earthlink.net

 

On the home front I was delighted to find myself talking to Mick Tems on the telephone the other day just before Christmas. Mick seems to be making good progress.

Talking of progress. I had a very interesting letter from Jim Peden of Liverpool. He had found my expurgated Ramblings in the recent copy of Folk North West and was taken by the reference made in Ramblings 12 about changing the words to songs, and thus changing the meaning as well. He had a copy of an EFDSS publication from the 1960's that had reprinted the version of Wild Mountain Thyme as recorded by Frank McPeake in July 1952.

Frank McPeake sung "If my true love she was gone, I would surely find NO other." Jim apparently also sings this song the same way I do. Perhaps we believers in this idiom of the tradition of not changing the theme of songs due to carelessness should form a secret society called "The no other society",

Sometimes however we need to pause and remember what life's all about for there has been a great loss recently in the entertainment world. The wonderful Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote the "Hokey Cokey", died last

month at the age of 83. The most traumatic part for the family was

getting him in the coffin.

They put his left leg in.................

 

Keep smiling and keep singing.

Joe Stead