A Prediction of War

“The trend seems to be – whatever is the latest opinion about what will or won’t happen, Trump will succeed in the opposite.”

This article is part of a series of political and religio-sociological essays intended to provoke thought and discussion. You can find the first here.

There is good reason why so many people worldwide have been alarmed by the turn history seems to be taking in recent years. For many of us able to remember the destructive rhetoric thrown out by state heads in America and soviet Russia in the 80s it feels somewhat like we have returned to those fearful pre-apocalyptic days.

It is my contention, however, that what is obvious and highly visible in the media today is masking a storm which is brewing hidden behind the ‘curtain scenery’ of headline news.

Donald Trump (Photo: Business Insider)

Trump’s War

There is no doubt that most of the world is anywhere between rather nervous and utterly terrified by the way Donald Trump has changed the political make-up both in America and globally. Since his arrival on the political stage, when he ran as the Republican candidate and was the ‘joke entry’, people have underestimated this man.

I was repeatedly told ‘he won’t be elected as the Republican candidate’, then ‘he won’t beat Hilary Clinton’, then ‘the majority of Americans hate what he stands for and won’t let him get into the White House’, then ‘the Senate will keep him in check – he can’t push through any of his policies.’ All of these have proven horrifically wrong and largely because of the naive view that Americans are, at the core, decent people. Many of the same people are still living in a state of shock, unable to believe that they got their country so wrong. Whatever, the trend seems to be – whatever is the latest opinion about what will or won’t happen, Trump will succeed in the opposite.

At the time of writing, he continues to exacerbate the patience of world leaders and to prod bears who are already dangerous enough and barely sleeping. Namely, the conflict with North Korea looks every bit as catastrophic as the worst of those 80s Cold War days (or indeed the times of the Cuban Missile Crisis?).

The predictions I am about to put forward may well prove false if Korea escalates; but then, it won’t really matter any longer. With China caught between a rock and a hard place and Japan feeling the weight of muscle-bound US support, a nuclear war would surely see an apocalyptic scenario dreamt of only in sci-fi movies. Then no one will be around to read these words anyway.

However – more likely – is that the two rival demagogues will do a bit of posturing on the front line while their aides work desperately in the background to diffuse and defuse the situation. In all likelihood,  this is all yet more historical frilliness which hides the real issues. One can only hope so anyway.

“I recall one Christian friend openly telling me his opinion that all gay people should be put against a wall and shot.”

The real meaning of Trump

Assuming then that one way or another we won’t be entering a nuclear war, I think that there is a greater danger lurking in the shadows. What is often ignored is that Donald Trump is neither the instigator nor propagator of racism, prejudice and bigotry: he is a symptom. He is, in reality, a figurehead who has lit the slow-burning fuse of war. He is not the architect.

The real danger of Trump is the fact that so many have followed him. The reason he won the presidential elections is that he spoke for a sizable part of the nation. It is easy to dismiss this – many have spoken of people who detest the man and what he stands for but felt that Clinton was worst or, at least, that Trump made certain promises in areas which were important to them (jobs for Americans rather than immigrants and so on), and so they voted for him. While undoubtedly true in some cases, it is attempting to whitewash the general truth: A significant proportion of America hates non-Americans.

Before I’m accused of America-bashing, let me point out both the proof of my assertion and my defence against such an accusation. It is this: He speaks not just for prejudiced Americans but for the British and Europeans too.

There is no coincidence that in the last months of Trump’s campaign, Britain’s Nigel Farage joined him on the trail. We Brits have also had our own essentially prejudiced campaign – Brexit, as it is now known. Again, there were many reasons for voting the EU which were good ones and surely some people did indeed vote with good intentions. In fact, as the campaign began I was not certain myself whether we should remain or leave and both sides spouted utter rubbish as they predicted doom and gloom if the other side were to win. I’m still quite certain that, from an economic point of view, the result of the referendum is irrelevant. We will lose industries here and gain there. The economy will go down, the economy will go up. Whether Brexit is a disaster for many years to come or only for a short while, Britain will adjust and the economy will adjust with it.

But quickly it became apparent that this was really  a war over a perceived ‘better Britain’ of the past where immigrants were not welcome, everyone was white and all were good Christian people. The fact that slightly more British people voted to leave than those who voted remain means – without wishing to point fingers at individuals – that there is a sizable number of racist and prejudiced people living in the UK today. The same story has been repeated in some form or other around Europe. From Le Pen’s popularity in France to the neo-nazi movements such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, it has become fashionable to be racist again in western society after so many decades of being driven underground and having to be couched in careful ‘politically correct’ language.

This doesn’t mean that we are surrounded by neo-nazi thugs pretending to be little old grannies. Prejudice comes in a variety of shapes and extremes. The majority of people I know who are prejudiced are what I would call ‘soft racists’: ones who distrust those who are different to them and don’t like them being around but would abhor the behaviour of anyone who would try to abuse or vilify anyone. I know too many people who admit they ‘don’t like/trust Muslims or blacks’ but work with them in their jobs or live near some or simply engage with them when they go collect their takeaway in the evening. Even just those who (erroneously) believe that immigrants are stealing our jobs and, while they have nothing against them personally, believe we need to sort ‘the immigration problem’ (another lie) so that no one will need to use food banks any longer. Far from standing with those who would chant “Go home Muslims”, these people are, nonetheless, racists.

Trump’s rise was the final piece of the jigsaw needed to make racism fashionable again. When I grew up, it was ok to attack (verbally or physically) gay people or anyone with non-white skin. In fact, in my early years, any couple living together but not married was right on the edge of acceptable abuse; certainly, they were shunned by locals. I recall one Christian friend openly telling me his opinion that all gay people should be put against a wall and shot. He was quite serious and the Christians surrounding him did not attempt to argue against him. During the 90s it became increasingly harder to hold such views openly. Many of us thought that the extremes were going the other way (I recall being told we should not refer to chalkboards as ‘blackboards’ any longer as they were derogatory to coloured people). But at least it was no longer popular to be bigoted and prejudiced.

Now, it is entirely acceptable again to believe in the superiority of your own ethnic clan and, if yours is the majority in your area or country, to abuse those who are different. Trump has made sure that for the next few years at least this will continue to be the case.

“…the intention of any successful attack would mean that Muslim countries would be compelled to retaliate with their own ‘war on terror’…”

A Prediction of war to come

While life is undoubtedly harder now for many non-whites – Muslims in particular – this is still not the sum total of what I believe is to come.

It is true that the majority of religiously-motivated terrorist attacks come from non-Muslim sources (on the whole, from Christian extremists) but it is also true that, on the whole, only the Islamic extremists are coordinated and working globally (usually under the banner of ISIS). This is one of the many reasons why both police forces and media are able to get away with dismissing white terrorists as ‘lone gunmen’ or ‘mentally ill’.

Islamists have the monopoly on suicide attacks as their (arguably erroneous) beliefs tell them they have a better reward awaiting them in Jannah. But I don’t think this will be for long.

I believe it is only a matter of time before white/Western version of ISIS will arise with the sole intention of wiping out Muslims, certainly from the western world, possibly from the planet. I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened already and theorise that we did not see a new kind of anti-Muslim army like this arise ten years ago because it would not have received support back then. Since November 8th 2016 when Trump won the election all that has changed. Such an army would, tacitly or more overtly, receive acceptance or at least reserved judgement.

The way attacks will occur will mimic those of the latest ISIS methods except that I think suicide runs will be fewer. Few atheists or Christians will advocate suicide – and only martyrdom under the right circumstances. These will be reserved for bombing mosques, or possibly carrying out mass shooting raids on them. The majority of attacks, however, will be smaller and carried out more like soldiers on covet military action – get in, kill, get out. Whereas Islamic extremists want to be found, their names to be known and live on to inspire others when they give their lives for Allah, the Western equivalent will seek to get out undetected, possibly to then become ‘sleepers’, lie dormant for a few years before carrying out another attack so the police are left guessing who will be involved or where they’ll attack in future.

The Kaaba (Photo: Khan Academy)

But the major attack, which will come after some years, will be on the most holy of holies for Muslims all over the world – the Kaaba. In an attack which will mirror the audacious one of 9/11, the Kaaba will be destroyed and when it does so it will launch the world into a true war because no Muslim will want to sit back and accept what has happened. It will be the equivalent of Bin Laden’s ‘come and get me’ when he attacked the Twin Towers.

I am amazed in fact that no individual groups have attempted to attack the Kaaba already. I understand that the security in Saudi Arabia is incredibly tight, probably second to none. There have also been small attempts to cause damage which have been foiled. The Kaaba has been damaged and looted before today and most scholars agree that it is not central to the tenets of Islamic faith – Muslims would simply rebuild. But the intention of any successful attack would mean that Muslim countries would be compelled to retaliate with their own ‘war on terror’ as coined by George Bush after the NY attack.

Undoubtedly, to inflict the greatest damage, this would need to be an airborne attack with a bomb powerful enough to destroy both the Kaaba and surrounding area. Ideally, this would be a nuclear bomb capable of making it impossible for Hajj to take place for many years to come. Nuclear bombs today are many times more powerful than those dropped on Japan in the Second World War. You would need one less powerful than the Hiroshima bomb to destroy the Kaaba and surrounding area. I don’t know much about nuclear bombs and their sizes but I suspect that a drone would be capable of dropping one before authorities could detect it.

Would this terrorist unit need to be large to operate worldwide? No. Taking a leaf from the book of ISIS, small units would be able to work globally and build a following not dissimilar to that of the Islamic State’s membership throughout the world. Less than one thousand men and women would be enough to create a media-presentable organisation which would strike terror through the use of multiple small attacks. ISIS has, in fact, taught anyone forming a group how to do it and be successful.

“If we sit back and let history unfurl without taking sides then history will also judge us…”

An alternative ending?

I have brooded over writing this article for a long time – a couple of years in fact – and not gone ahead because, originally, there was no Trump. While the rise of UKIP in the UK and similar European groups gave me great alarm and I predicted (correctly) that things were going to get much tougher for Muslims in the West, I could not believe that we would see a Bin Laden kind of figure emerge to be the figurehead for a coming counter-army. Farage certainly did not cut the muster for that role – he was always nothing more than a dangerous buffoon.

From the very beginning of Trump’s campaign to be Republican candidate though, I saw the potential and every victory of his made me a little grayer. I am quite convinced that he will win a second term. For once we have a president who is visibly and actively trying to carry out his election promises (just when we don’t want him to) and even failures – where he is blocked by court judges and so on – work in his favour. Those who voted for him see him as sticking to his promises and see the ‘system’ was working against them as it works against him. I believe he’ll win by a greater margin next time. No one believed he would win in November. Now everyone knows he can.

What I can’t predict is how it will end. I don’t even want to think about it quite honestly. All I do know is that such a war would be lengthy and bloody on both sides.

But there is a hope for something better and brighter than I have proposed here.

While 50% of Americans (roughly) voted Trump in, 50% didn’t. While a slim majority voted for Brexit, a sizable minority didn’t. Without wanting to push the UK’s Jeremy Corbyn into messianic heights, this man of principle who has ignored all advice, all criticism and all attempts to make him play ball and ‘do up his tie’, has faced the odds not once but three times in as many years. Like Trump, no one believed he could win either the leadership challenge or the General Election. Instead, he won the first in the most incredible of ways and brought Teresa May’s government crashing to its knees, almost snatching victory. We live in polarised times. While the hate-mongers are bold and brash today, so are the peace-makers and the die-hard honourable believers.

What is important here is that Corbyn inspired thousands by his principles (including myself, alarmed to find my odd ideas were finally in line with what others think after decades of being an outsider) and his rallies are always packed with fans who genuinely believe in him. Everyone I have spoken to who have worked with Corbyn in the past tell me this man has been like this for decades. What you see with him is what you get. He’s not alone and, more to the point, many people ‘get it’. He’s not a loony fringe person (despite the media doing its best to portray him as such). He speaks for a lot of us.

It is not Corbyn himself which matters in this article, but like Trump for his supporters, what matters it is what Corbyn represents: a people who say no to injustice, prejudice, racism and fascist ideology. If such a counter-army as I’ve described does evolve out of theory and into reality, it will need the anti-Trump supporters and the ‘Remoaners’ and the ‘Corbynites’ et al to also rally up and actively seek to re-educate those who would be easily won over and find such a cause to be attractive. We will need to take sides more actively than most of us do now. If we sit back and let history unfurl without taking those sides then history will also judge us as it judges those of Nazi Germany who sat back, watched it happen, and did nothing.

If you liked this article then please share on your own social media (tag me on twitter @DKenPowell ). Thank you!

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

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How to kill ISIS (and why we don’t want to)

“…ISIS are quite, quite brilliant…”

Photo from Dreamstime.com

As I write, there has been yet another terrorist attack. Yet again a van as rammed into a crowd. Where it happened doesn’t matter. You could be reading this at any time in the near future and history will no doubt repeat itself somewhere else. Van-ramming is now the weapon of choice for ISIS though we’ve also seen it used by White supremicists (i.e. Charlottesville) in recent days. But perhaps when you’re reading this some other attack may have occurred. we live in disturbing days.

I will be immediately controversial and say that ISIS are quite, quite brilliant. Do not mistake this for admiration (nor approval of what they stand for). It’s actually a declaration of how frighteningly dangerous they are. Despite the rallying calls that they are in their dying days with the ‘caliphate’ on the point of collapse, their major strongholds in the Middle East all but recaptured and reports of members leaving in their droves every day, ISIS remain a danger which will be felt long after they cease to exist as a coherent group.

Hitler repeated

It is not inappropriate to make comparisons with that other great danger of the last century – Hitler – although the use of this figure is a double-edged sword for there is a man on the other side of the ISIS coin to whom such references could also be made. But for now, I’ll apply what we know of Hitler to ISIS.

The leader of the Nazi party continues to be studied today for good reason. His speeches were brilliant, his theories equally so. His tactics were superb. He went from being a dangerous extremist, imprisoned for his beliefs in a country semi-unfairly punished for the First World War (modern historians acknowledge that the power struggle in Europe was a much more complex affair than the oft-told tale of’ Germans as bad and everyone else as good’ touted in schools in the West) and became the country’s leader, unifying the people into an efficient fighting machine and bringing at least a form of (temporary) prosperity and hope to the German nation.

Such was the brilliance of the man that it has been argued that many of the atrocities committed in his name were done so without his explicit knowledge or orders but simply because leaders lower down the chain believed that this was what the Führer would want. Again, let it not be misunderstood as an attempt to apologise for the man and excuse him. There is no doubt that overall the holocaust and other atrocities were all part of his master plan. But the ideology of Hitler was much, much bigger than the man himself. Indeed, even today, Nazi groups exist everywhere and he continues to be revered.

What is important here is that Hitler was not an uneducated thug. He would have been easy to remove, a blip in history’s landscape, had he been so. He was an articulate, controlling, clever man who pushed all the right buttons at the right time. The result was a horror much greater than any one man could achieve on his own.

“Long after the final tenuous grip of ISIS in the Middle East has been lost, these attacks will continue and ISIS will, in an ethereal,virtual and spiritual form, continue to exist throughout the world”

The real danger of ISIS

In a similar way, ISIS is much bigger than the group itself. Indeed, I have deliberately used the popular name ISIS instead of the wealth of other names used in the press (‘Islamic State’ etc.) because it is the name which is more dangerous than the entity.

Like Hitler, ISIS is no thuggish movement. Unlike groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which were fundamentally controlling organisations and were politically minded, ISIS presents a theological ideology which is well-thought out and attractive to disenfranchised Muslims. While Bin Laden and his associates wore a thin veneer of Islam to justify their means, the truth was that such groups were really held together by mercenaries who looked for power, money and prestige. There is much of the same with ISIS of course, but at the top is an ideology which is well promoted and seductive to the vulnerable.

Before I am accused of laying this at the foot of the door of Muslims, I will also point out that there is an equally dangerous ideology slowly growing in the West which will, given the right feeding and growth, develop into a counter-terror driving against Muslims. That is a subject for another post on another day but I will pick up on this area soon enough. For now though, let it be said that this article is not accusing the vast majority of Muslims who are decent, law-abiding citizens every bit as horrified by terrorism as those of us who are not Muslims.

However, perhaps the greatest tactic employed by ISIS which makes them so insidious is the latest ploy of using the internet to invite all people to take up their ideology and wage war against the West. It is brilliant and truly frightening. Now anyone can be a member of their organisation without ever meeting or even corresponding with a member of ISIS. I am not even a Muslim and yet, today, I could read some propaganda, convert to an extreme form of Islam, hire a van and kill a load of people. I don’t need to have been a Muslim beforehand, I don’t need to know how to shoot a gun or make a bomb. I simply have to believe the ideology and be prepared to die or live the rest of my life in prison. Many a serial killer has made just that decision for infamy alone without the need for deep ideological belief. Of course, I could convert to some extreme form of Christianity or even Atheism and also go out and kill people, but the focus here is on Islamic terrorism.

What’s more, although this has not yet been utilised, I think it is only a matter of time before we see the next, most awful, step of the van-ramming technique. So far, we have only seen such acts taking place in major cities or where major events are taking place. But these acts could happen almost anywhere. In my local town there is a street carnival every year. a van ram-raid there would be every bit as effective in killing and maiming as it would in London, Nice or anywhere else. Indeed, in the same town any Friday or Saturday night there are enough people drinking on the streets that you could probably kill many on just an ordinary evening. We are, I am convinced, only one step away from the ultimate terror – where acts could be committed anywhere, any time, by any person. And the police and anti-terrorist organisations would be completely unaware of both the plan and the persons involved. I am mystified quite why this has not yet started happening. It is only a matter of time though, I feel.

Long after the final tenuous grip of ISIS in the Middle East has been lost, these attacks will continue and ISIS will, in an ethereal,virtual and spiritual form, continue to exist throughout the world with a larger membership than formally recognised at present.

Photo from MercoPress

“…if your God is so weak he needs you to ‘defend his name’ by slaughtering innocents, then you really don’t believe in God at all…”

How to kill ISIS

With all this in mind then, it is imperative that all those who stand against ISIS – the non-Muslim West and, it is very important to say, the vast majority of Muslims throughout the world – do everything we can to bring this group (and others like it) to an end. While government forces and armies continue to wage war on the ground and through information-seeking to find smaller groups planning large-scale attacks, the greater war can be fought by all of us in three vital ways:

  1. We name ISIS and all terrorists for what they really are: Murderers. ISIS thrives on publicity. Take away that publicity and you remove the fuel for their fire. Instead, give a level playing field to all those who kill others for ideological reasons. It is well known that actually the majority of terrorist attacks in America and Europe are NOT Islamic in origin but come from a wealth of beliefs, political and religious including, notably, Christianity. Yet the media and police forces rarely refer to such acts as ‘terrorist’ or give them much credence. Make all acts of violence against non-combatants taking place in non-war-zones acts of murder not terrorism. Dismiss the names of the organisations or belief systems these acts are perpetrated in and name the culprits as murderers. This would have an immediate effect on many who might consider going down ‘in a blaze of glory’ if they know their cause will receive no air space.
  2. Refer to religious terrorists – ISIS in particular – as atheists. This is a key tactic but one which needs determined effort to implement. There are two reasons for using this tactic. The first is that one of the important aspects of ISIS attacking the West is to drive a wedge between non-Muslim and Muslims. By making us all hate Muslims, it sends Muslims over to the side of ISIS who believe, and wish, for all Muslims to join them in the Caliphate and leave the decadent West behind. By removing the religious connotations, you remove the wedge which ISIS wishes to drive between people. The second is that to call an ISIS member an atheist would be the ultimate insult but also, I believe, calling the truth. Just as I believe extremist Christians to be atheists, so I believe the same of all extremist religious cults. The logic is simple – if your God is so weak he needs you to ‘defend his name’ by slaughtering innocents, then you really don’t believe in God at all. A God which is so pathetic that he can’t do his own killing but needs human hands to exact vengeance or judgement or whatever, is no God at all. Such a God is just an excuse to commit murder. So call it as it is.

The third tactic is the hardest one and, in some ways, possibly the cruellest to carry out.

Peter Frankopan’s excellent history book ‘The Silk Roads’ is a wonderfully refreshing book which gives new insight into world history without having to resort to conspiracy theories, obscure, ambiguous sources or twist facts hard to develop interpretation. Instead he merely throws the known facts into a new light by removing the America/Britain.Euro-centric assumptions and placing Asia at the centre of world events instead.

When seen through this lens, it becomes more obvious that the whole of 20th century history has been shaped by oil. From the initial findings in Persia, to the hunt for supremacy over the Middle East, to the mishandling by the British, and then Americans, of an impossible situation with warring Islamic countries which led to the intense (and rightful) distrust of America in particular by the Arab lands.

While I maintain that the danger of ISIS is their well-constructed ideology, their political thinking has been no less intelligent. The areas ISIS have controlled have been to put oil into their hands because they know as well as the Western governments do that he who has oil has the world.

So, my third tactic is this:

Remove the need for oil.

There is only one real reason that we have not replaced fossil fuels with renewables like solar, wind and sea and that is that our entire economic systems are built around the assumption that oil is the kingpin. The technology has been in place to make renewables the only necessary source of power for at least a decade and, gradually, the private consumer market is pushing these sources into play regardless. It is now a common sight to see people driving hybrid electric/petrol cars and fully electric vehicles are on the verge of becoming the vehicles of choice.

Once you remove oil from the equation, global politics shifts. The Middle East will no longer be anyone’s concern. America and its allies will no longer meddle in the affairs of the Muslim lands and, instead, from Palestine through to Pakistan, the warring factions will be left to their own to get on with sorting their divisions. Except that then oil will have ceased to be a trading chip. This is why I think this could be the cruellest tactic because the danger is that those in power in the Middle East will bury their heads and fail to keep up with the shift in renewable energy. Places like Saudi Arabia could literally go from riches to rags unless they shift and reinvest in new technology. What is for certain though is that no one will be interested in their land resources and so no one will care who controls what in that region. Effectively the Muslim lands will truly belong to the Muslims again.

Once that happens, the current dominance in so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’ would end. Without oil, groups like ISIS have no bargaining chip, no power and no sustainability. I have no doubt that there will continue to be great trouble as warring factions continue to fight over turf, but the world will no longer be involved and frankly, the internal fights will lack ‘bite’.

Photo from Common Dreams

“Whoever they decide to follow, whatever ideology they take up, it is in our hands. We can be heroes or villains: the choice is ours.”

Why we won’t do any of this

These three aims may seem simplistic and possibly not feasible but I disagree. The democratisation of news media means that the first two points can be taken up by any and all of us and the traditional media will eventually follow suit if enough of us do. The third is already occurring. But slowly – deliberately so.

Ultimately, it is in the interests of the West to keep ISIS or at least give space for ‘son of ISIS’ to grow (ISIS is, itself, the offspring of Bin Laden’s legacy). The usual reason given is the arms trade which takes place and, of course, this is true. But there’s a deeper reason:

We all need an enemy to fight.

For the first 50 years of the 20th century it was the Germans and their allies we hated. Then it was Russia and its communist allies until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 80s. Bin Laden came just in the nick of time to give the Western world a new focus in who to hate. None of us had really thought about the Muslims before in this way. We were keen to take up this strange new enemy and revile them regardless of the real truth.

Without an enemy who is distant to us, we have no choice but to turn on ourselves because, in the end, we all want someone to hate. Governments recognise this. While they are fighting the so-called evils of ‘Islamicism’ our governments can appear as heroes (note the way most mainstream media is currently portraying ISIS as in the last throes of existence and proclaiming victory for the ‘free West’). Without an enemy, our people turn on our governments and start to ask uncomfortable questions. Governments do best in terms of popularity when they are fighting a recognisable and easily identifiable enemy.

So ISIS, in whatever form it will now morph into, will continue on and our governments will continue to spout damning rhetoric with smiles on their faces. I can predict already where the new form of terrorism will emerge. We are breeding, right now, a child generation to hate us and despise everything the West stands for. You’ll find them in all the refugee camps dotted around Europe. These are the children who needed our help and turned to us in despair and wanted some humanity and comfort. Instead we rejected and ignored them and, when forced to deal with them, did so with disgust which has been barely hidden.

One day these boys and girls will be men and women who will have lived their whole remembered lives spat at and distanced from whatever societies they are allowed to settle in. Whoever they decide to follow, whatever ideology they take up, it is in our hands. We can be heroes or villains: the choice is ours.

This is the first of a series of political and religio-sociological essays intended to provoke thought and discussion. If you liked this article then please share on your own social media (tag me on twitter with @DKenPowell ). Thank you!

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, politics, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 19 Comments

The two sides of the coin

“I believe in a guy who broke conventions. He hung around with prostitutes, he was nasty to those others looked up to, he was even nastier sometimes to his own friends..”

They often say love and hate are two sides of the same coin. I have always, naively perhaps, struggled to believe this. I still try to find it hard to believe. Alas, in the last few years, the evidence is mounting up to suggest I’m wrong. It’s a battle against bitterness these days.

I simply don’t understand the concept of how someone (as a friend or lover or whatever) can one minute be all supportive of you for something you’ve said or done or been, and the next condemn you for exactly the same things. For me, if I’ve said something is good, then it stays good. If I say something is bad then it stays bad. Nevertheless, I’m hearing the same complaint across countries and cultures. I’m not alone.

What I am learning is that people love to judge, criticise and condemn and will do so at the drop of hat. I don’t mean about political stuff or world matters. I mean deeply personal. It’s almost as if everyone is a vampire; waiting for you to cut yourself and draw blood before turning on you with fangs revealed for the first time.

Faith

I’ve always tried to avoid matters of faith and religion on this blog – for various reasons including wanting this to be a safe place for people of all persuasions who are of reasonable mind – but for once I’m going to reveal a little about what makes me tick.

31 years ago I came to faith – not easily and in some ways not even willingly. I’d love to tell you I’ve been a true believer who follows every word of my scriptures and is a pious and holy man. The truth is, half the time I don’t even know if I still believe any of it. Every day I struggle with what is now a very battered and torn faith. And even when I do feel it’s the right road, I’m very aware I’m pretty crap at living it and, frankly, feck up all the time. But I also remember just how screwed my life was before I had a faith. One day, it’ll be a book I’ll write, but for now let’s just say it was a tough beginning to life.

However, two things came out of my conversion which have remained firm all these decades:

  1. My faith says I don’t have to ‘do’ or ‘be’ anyone to be alright with God. Literally. I can be bad, wrong and even evil and still forgiven and loved. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not a license to do as I please. It comes with a flipside – that if you truly love someone and you’re grateful for them then you will do things that you know please them; same with God. My faith says you can’t ‘earn’ your salvation. Instead, your life is about loving the person who first loved you and doing the things you know they want you to do. Salvation is not earned by ‘works’ but there should be evidence of your faith if it exists. The upshot of this is that the only things I do ‘religiously’ I do for love and not because I think I ‘ought to’. There is no compulsion in my faith. It’s all an act of love.
  2. Love is everything. Like, painfully, sacrificially, really truly comes-with-a-cost, everything. If someone is actually willing to die for you then you owe them big time. It’s easy to say “I love you” but really meaning it is much harder. Whatever it costs, you give. It’s not just words. If the best you can muster is ‘I love you’ then you don’t love at all.

So, thanks to the first point, for 31 years I’ve lived pretty much content with who I am. I don’t have the angst many others have told me they feel – I don’t go searching for ‘peace’ or my ‘place in the universe’ or anything like that. I go where doors open and I step away from where doors close. I have bad days where I know I’ve been rubbish – done crap, got angry, upset, said harsh words, felt down, got it horribly wrong. But the black moods lift and all the way through it I know that it is actually ok to fail, ok to get it wrong, ok to even be bad. As long as it’s always ‘onwards and upwards’. It’s not about thinking too highly of yourself. It’s about not being so selfish as to demand something more from the universe and have a hissy fit when it doesn’t go your way, saying ‘woe is me’ and thinking of yourself as a terrible person. Actually, you can be a normal person – with good and bad moments – and still be loved.

But I’ve also lived this life remaining grateful that I have a life at all (I very nearly didn’t – twice) and I’ve been blessed and I am loved – so I try to give that back (the second point). Oddly, it’s my attempts to give back love which give the most grief.

I believe in a guy who broke conventions. He hung around with prostitutes, he was nasty to those others looked up to, he was even nastier sometimes to his own friends if they were really missing the point and getting it wrong! He went to parties with bad people, and thought nothing of getting angry with those he didn’t like and would even try and ruin their lawful businesses by ‘turning over tables’. He didn’t care less about his reputation and he encouraged others to go much further than they needed to when helping others. He didn’t offer sweet, gentle, ‘let’s all just hold hands and dream of angels’ love. His was a tough, pragmatic, in-your-face love. Love until it hurts, and then love more. For him, it cost him not just his reputation but his life. Here there were no health and safety rules, no ‘consideration of reputations’, no fear of what others might think if they found out (he really let a prostitute get that close to him and behave like that with him?! Disgusting. It’s perverse). He did what was right and, literally, to hell with the consequences.

I’ve done my best to do something of that. I’m not beefing myself up here – I ain’t died for no one and there’s plenty of times someone has got me so upset that I’ve said “screw you” and walked away, at least for a while. But, naively perhaps, I’ve believed all that crap about ‘going the extra mile’ bit. I have to say, in one sense, it’s done me no good – but I’ve done it anyway. I believed long ago that my life doesn’t belong to me any more and I didn’t want anyone else I knew to feel friendless, alone, worthless or unlovable. I’ve been there and I know it feels pretty shit.

Listening to others

For 31 years, I’ve listened to people. I’ve tried to be a safe place to talk about anything. I’ve listened to tales of drug addictions, prostitution, gambling problems, marriage break-ups, rapes and sexual abuses, physical abuses from spouses or parents, deviant sexual urges, fall-outs with loved ones, grief, depression, money problems – and more. Where someone has needed money, I’ve given it if I can. Where they’ve needed a hug, I’ve given it. Where they just want to talk about anything, especially in cultures where normally they can’t do that, I’ve done that. Heck I’ve even talked about penile dysfunction and breast sizes where it has been wanted. No one has ever shocked me with their stories or their problems and I learned long ago that if someone is upset or worried then they’re upset and worried – it doesn’t matter whether the problem is actually big or small. To them, it’s a problem and deserves the respect. Even if their biggest problem is they eat too much chocolate sometimes, I’ve listened with respect. Of course, I’ve screwed up with that sometimes. I don’t try to be a counsellor. I just try to be a friend. I don’t try to sugarcoat things – if I think someone is being an arse then I say ‘you’re being an arse’. Most of the time they know it’s not coming from an arrogant judgmental attitude. Sometimes though, it’s too much and walk away. That’s my error, not theirs. I’m okay with that – I screw up.

But I have never understood those who feel that listening to the problems of others is some kind of ‘burden’ and they feel drained of it. To me, it’s an honour when someone shares their deepest thoughts with you; a privilege to share the journey a little with them. My reward, I guess, is a sense of knowing that someone is a little happier today because you were there. I’m sure many of my fellow believers will condemn me for saying this but – I’m proud of the kind of love I’ve given for three decades. When I die I’ll do so knowing I did some good out there even if others want to see it as ‘perverse’ or wrong. I didn’t do it for the observers. I did what I thought best at the time for the person in front of me who needed a friend. Screwed up and imperfect though I’ve been every single time.

The Coin

I’ve tried, in writing all this, to emphasise that this is not about ‘wonderful me’. Compared to several people I know, I’m a really selfish bastard. I don’t give a rat’s arse about people seeing my ‘sins’ and my faults because my sense of self-worth doesn’t come from how good I’ve been today. It comes from being loved by someone else who equally doesn’t give a rat’s arse whether I’ve been Mother Teresa or a mini-Hitler – none of it would be good enough anyway, so there’s a totally different measure for love involved. I’ve written this to try and give a (poor) inkling of how I believe love should work.

Which is why I don’t understand how things can go so sour so fast. Between lovers, between spouses, between friends…the one recurring message I hear from people again and again is “how could they turn out to be so cruel? So uncaring? So vindictive?”

And I’ve been bounced by this myself more times than I care to remember. So many friends over the years where I’ve done my best to be that safe place and then, some argument, some failing (of mine or theirs – usually both I think), some lapse in mutual respect perhaps and BOOM! Suddenly they want nothing to do with you ever again. I really don’t understand it. To me, this suggests that whatever love was felt, it wasn’t real. How can someone go from being grateful for your friendship and saying the whole ‘friends forever’ thing and, within a single argument, never speak to you again? No wonder many people tell me they feel everyone is ‘fake’.

Are there really two sides to this coin? Is it inevitable that love and hate must be paired together? I don’t know if my coin has turned out to be dodgy – a double-headed piece? – or if I’ve always just been too scared to flip mine over. I can think of several people that I have every right to ‘hate’ but I simply can’t do it. Usually I just pity them and worry, perhaps, about others coming into their lives who might be hurt in similar ways. Anger I know well – I’m a master at getting pissed with someone – but never hate. I do know that even when I’ve been really angry and upset how someone has behaved, a genuine and heartfelt ‘sorry’ has usually been all that’s needed to start rebuilding the bridges.  Which I guess is also the basis for the founder of my faith? Forgiveness is a remarkably powerful weapon – but wielding it is not something I’ve mastered yet. In fact I’m pretty lousy at it. “I can forgive but I can’t forget” I sometimes say – but I’m not sure whether that’s just an excuse to hold on to bitterness.

I still want to believe that there is always opportunity to forgive. After all, that’s what brought me to this point in the first place. But just as love, if genuine, will prove itself in actions more than words, so perhaps forgiveness needs to be given to someone who proves they actually want to be forgiven.

That said, my founder also said “forgive them for they know not what they do”. I’ll admit it openly. I’m so not ready to do that yet. There’s still so much in me that needs to change, clearly. Just like 31 years ago though, I’m content with that fact – as long as it’s always onwards and upwards.

 

Still looking for the other side…

If you liked this article then please share on your own social media (tag me on twitter with @DKenPowell ). Thank you!

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Philosophy, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What could YOU do with $2 each month?

What could you do with $2 per month?

I carried out extensive research into this question (well…I asked a few friends on Facebook) and here’s my results.

For $2 per month you could:

  • possibly get a cheap lipstick or concealer (would apparently probably have to be on sale – I don’t have personal experience of this);
  • buy a bar of KitKat; 
  • buy half a pint of lager;
  • shove it in a jar and save it (that’s hardly actually using it though);
  • buy a loaf of bread, a pack of rice, some sweets (not sure whether that’s an either/or option or if the person who wrote that shops in an amazing shop);
  • buy a bottle of Ribena and a pack of Fruitella (I have some strange friends…);
  • buy baby wipes, bottle of pre-made baby formula or some socks (this was a new mother);
  • buy half a bag of dog treats (in America – this person complained you really can’t do a lot with $2, which is kinda the point of this post);
  • buy a little packet of powdered milk to use to make delicious cha (this from a dear friend in Bangladesh whose sister makes cha to die for);
  • buy a pack of green bean or maybe a small tub of cream cheese (though this friend did admit that you couldn’t then afford anything to go with said cream cheese);
  • buy 5-6 pieces of apple (from a friend in the Philippines);
  • buy 160 penny sweets (in British money $2 is about £1.60 hence the exactly figure from a sweet-toothed friend here);
  • drink a single gin and tonic (in a bowling club not far from where I live in the UK – clearly a special place at that price);
  • put it towards housekeeping (this friend is Scottish – what else can I say?);
  • buy an ice cream cone (an American friend);
  • buy a ball of yarn and knit a scarf;
  • buy some chocolate, crisps and fresh orange juice – or maybe just several bars of chocolate (from a female friend, obviously);
  • buy some paint and paint sheep skulls interesting colours (I kid you not, and this friend proceeded to show me an example of one she’d done – I said I had some strange friends…);
  • buy a skull balaclava and then rob a bank (very strange friends…).

OR

You could instead for $2 per month get all this:

  • support a writer (this one, specifically) as he writes his novel;
  • receive a chapter of said novel every month as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes posts and video posts about the book;
  • be part of a team of sponsors who can give feedback on the novel and so help to write the final version;
  • help support on-going charity work in Bangladesh;
  • help train teachers in poor areas to teach children in Bangladesh who desperately need education;
  • help with a number of other health and education development projects around Bangladesh.

But, of course, you can sponsor yours truly for even more than $2 a month and get additional goodies like your name in the acknowledgements of the book, exclusive short stories and even signed copies of published and future books!

 

Welcome to my latest book project, hosted by Patreon. This is a crowdfunding site aimed at the needs of artists to create a win-win environment where, for incredibly low cost, sponsors can read a (good?) book and help those in need and this artist can plan ahead with reasonably secure income. By making it low investment, the idea is that lots of people will sign up which means lots of people reading my book (please, take the hint)!

The novel is called The Pukur and tells the story of a young British girl, Sophie, who finds herself stranded in Bangladesh, trying to deal with a culture and people completely alien to her own. Long-term readers will recall that this was my first ever book project from long ago and now is the time to get it out to readers. Aimed partially at the Young Adult audience, it is appropriate for teenagers through to retired friends. There are some elements of the story which might be difficult for pre-teen readers however.

You can sign up at the bottom $2 per month tier but raise and lower that as you like. Sponsors will get to know about trips to Bangladesh and may, for instance, wish to raise their support for the month coming up to that trip and then lower it again afterwards. And, of course, you’re free to stop sponsoring at any time. The book will take around two years to complete.

Even if you’d rather read the book in its entirety when completely finished (though I’d love to have your feedback each month instead), that’s fine – each month you’ll receive the entire book up to the most recent chapter, complete with latest revisions. So you could ignore them all until the final last chapter is written and then read the most up-to-date version in one go! And in the meantime, your small donation is working for kids in poverty every single month. Please note though that if you sign up in six months time you will still only start at chapter one for your first month, two for your second and so on.

Click on any of the highlighted links (or HERE if you can’t see them) to go to my Patreon site, read what it’s all about there and even watch my video!

I truly hope you’ll join me (and Sophie) on this journey together.

Much love to you peeps

Ken (D K Powell)

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them! 

Sign up for Ken’s new writing project – ‘The Pukur’ – at Patreon.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Bangladesh, Education, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anouncement: Mad dogs on the loose!

Long-term readers of this blog will have followed my exploits in Bangladesh for many, many years. Now you can buy the book!

I am very pleased to announce that my forthcoming new book ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen…’ is coming very forth indeed. The manuscript is in the final stages of editing and will be out very soon.

Part travelogue, part guide to the newbie visitor to Bangladesh, ‘Mad Dogs’ will educate and amuse readers who want to know just what it feels like to be a foreigner in a very strange land. I will give more details as the publication date approaches but for now, make sure you have this blog bookmarked and you’ve signed up for notifications. Like my Facebook page and/or follow my Twitter feed to keep up-to-date.

Next week I have another announcement to make about a completely different book project which I want you to be involved with. Again, long-term readers will not be surprised (and I hope you’ll be delighted!) about this particular bit of news. August is going to be an exciting month for me – I hope you’ll stick around to see why!

Love and hugs

Ken

Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them!

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at dkpowell.contact@gmail.com

Posted in Bangladesh, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments