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In April 2007, I took part in an online argument over US state gun control following the horrific Virginia Tech school shooting, in which 32 people were murdered. At the time, I failed to understand the distinction between ‘natural rights’ and man-made or ‘legal’ rights – as well as how entrenched the constitution really is in American politics.

In the discussion, I claimed that no one had the inborn right to own these weapons based on a 220 year-old manifesto, confused with (or, perhaps, ignoring) the fact that, yes, they did according to what is the foundation of American law, liberty and their wider culture. Part of this was a problem with language: I ought to have said ‘no-one should have the inborn right…’, a position which can be well argued. However, after the latest massacre in Connecticut yesterday in which far too many children to mention were senselessly killed, the debate regarding gun laws was reignited. This is the kind of incident where, surely, if any tragedy alone was to be the catalyst for such a seismic change in the federal law, it would be this.

Following the wave of emotive cries demanding we repeal the federal gun laws following these tragedies, there is also a backlash invoking the all too common retort that ‘guns don’t kill people, people do’. It is quite easy to see the faulty logic in this self-deprecating statement, which can be illustrated if  the statement is reversed: of course people kill people…with guns! The issue is that the acquisition of the means to kill so many people is much too easy and the results are far more catastrophic than when other weapons are used. It is like saying ‘calories don’t kill obese people, the choice to consume them does’. The right tool is required to perform a certain action – besides, guns are designed for killing; they are very effective at it.

There is a nauseating but useful parallel which can be drawn here between the events in Connecticut and another attack which occurred in Henan, China (when personal firearms are illegal) on the same day[1], where a man broke into school and injured 22 children with a knife. Of course people with mental health problems exist all over the world, but clear also is the fact that if he had gotten hold of a gun, he would have done a lot more damage, perhaps even on a US scale. What exactly might a 20 year old man in a quiet, well-off neighborhood need several handguns and a 223-caliber rifle for in the first place? The argument for self-defence is fallacious – sure, it may be a terrifying imperative having to defend yourself from a burglary (although I would be more concerned with preserving life itself than property) – but guns would only really be required if the attacker had firearms too. Statistics show that if you do not own a gun, you are less likely to get shot. This is the reason the British police do not have guns on them. The situation is self-escalating: guns are needed to protect from other people who have guns.

There is also a cultural problem which cannot be ignored. Online, I have noticed that many people who take the NRA’s line that ‘guns don’t kill people…’ follow it up by diverting the topic on to the mental health issue. They imply that the healthcare system neglects mental health patients, ignoring the fact there is no firm evidence that the perpetrator of the Connecticut shooting suffered from any such health problem, except perhaps mild Asperger Syndrome. Incidentally, I think the issues of gun control and healthcare are variably linked because both invoke living dangerously.

I get the impression that with such an emphasis on freedom (we know this though presidential rhetoric, the constitution, the American Dream, etc.), Americans embalm the idea of ‘fair game’, where responsibility rests with the individual. Far from the traditional perception of such political issues being conservative ideals, they are fiercely anarchic in this respect. With the reformation of one (say, healthcare) it would not be surprising if soon after came the reformation of another, as they both concern a similar type of attitude – the attitude toward freedom, responsibility and the constitution.

What motivates (almost always) young men to go out and murder innocent schoolchildren is a question that can never really be answered, and might be the real cultural question here. The number of such incidents is far higher in the US compared with other countries, even where personal firearms are legal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States). But evidently these incidents will keep on happening until something is changed and it has to be in law. Even with an understanding of how practically difficult it might be to effectively change the constitution, the question remains: if it isn’t done now, when will it?

AK47


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The correlation between military combat and the writing of poetry has a long and historic tradition. There are many suspected reasons for this: war unfailingly touches the hearts of everyone involved in it and raises life’s deeper questions about death, justice and the nature of humanity. It is also about incorporating the ‘unchanging aspect’ of the primitive fight into a literary tradition, according to former Army Captain Patrick Bury, of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Bury, 31, was at Hull University last week to discuss his book Callsign Hades (2011), an account of his time fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province, Afghanistan over a period of four years. The presentation, which lasted around an hour, featured anecdotes about his regiment in combat in Sangin (a Taliban stronghold), his personal admiration of the war poets gone by, and the eternal relationship between politics and prose.

The tragedy of the First World War is imprinted in the minds of all British schoolchildren through the storytelling of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, and for Bury at least, it seems to have had a lasting impact. I asked whether the mythology of living up to these literary giants was what spurred him to begin his project:  ‘It was definitely something I decided to do after I went in. I’m not the biggest fan of war poetry but I felt a need to record the events I was witnessing in some way’.

Bury accordingly touched on how he sometimes felt as though he was signing up for the ‘old lie’, an idea immortalised in Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est (1920), which deals with justice amidst the fighting and the heart-breaking reality of conflict. Further scepticism was allowed for when discussing the ‘corrosion of combat at a moral level, leading to the realisation that young men were sacrificed for the policies of old men’. Bury used this sweeping maxim to bring the issue up to date, making important points regarding the severe lack of equipment and numbers of soldiers in the Afghanistan War.

In contrasting again the wars of old with our modern clash between western ideals and the theocratic terrorists of the middle-east, I asked Bury whether he felt a combative distinction between ‘localised’ wars like the Great War and our current ideological battle: ‘I don’t really think there’s much difference – except for the lives of those back at home’. Bury is clearly not too interested in getting into a political debate regarding war, for he wants to channel the unchanging nature of conflict and incorporate this into creating ‘self-identifying’ poetry for soldiers.

After a discussion about Bury’s childhood, it seems obvious that his early ambition to be in the military shines through as being the deciding factor for engaging in the war, way before any political or literary ambition. This very ‘masculine’ desire permeated the young Patrick Bury growing up during The Troubles in Ireland (with a couple of ‘hippies’ for parents), as did the relatively ‘simple’, masculine poetry of war, following the template of poets like Alan Seeger and Wilfred Owen.

This macho drive, it seems was far-reaching across the army. At one bizarre point in the presentation, Bury played a YouTube video of the AC/DC song ‘Hells Bells’, claiming that he and his comrades in the regiment would play the song loudly before combat, to get them pumped up for the fight. This recalls perhaps one of the worst clichés about the US and British Army, encapsulated in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic Apocalypse Now (which Bury briefly mentioned), in the scene where the helicopters blare out music whilst blasting a Vietnamese village with gunfire. Perhaps, in light of the earlier discussion, ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath would have been more appropriate considering the lyrics: ‘politicians hide themselves away, they only started the war, why should they go out to fight, they leave that role to the poor’.

At moments like this, and when Bury tries to fuse together cross-generational war poets by using generalisations, the presentation can feel more like an amateur high school assignment than a university guest lecture. But first and foremost, Patrick Bury is an ex-soldier with a clear and valuable insight into what is a relatively normal soldier’s life in the army and the traditional relationship between this experience and literature. And I have learned about the unbridled motivation behind Bury’s and probably countless other soldiers passion for warfare, an impending feeling of duty, summed up best by Alan Seeger himself: ‘I have a rendezvous with death’.

In observing the current and on-going ethno-religious turf ‘war’ between Israel and the forces of Hamas in the Gaza strip, who can blame Gaza? Well, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks apparently, who let slip on air that he believed the violence has ‘got to do with Iran, actually’[1], proceeding to immediately contradict this statement by insisting ‘no one gains from violence, not the Palestinians and not the Israeli’s’. If the latter were true then what would Iran gain from getting involved, or as Sacks is probably implying, providing Hamas with weaponry?

The common remark in the press by all sides is that a nation of peoples has the right to defend itself against attack. One of the many problems with this dispute though begins when we try to assess who, in playground terms ‘started it’, and whether they were justified. Another problem is that the more a population of displaced Palestinians grows, according to Wikipedia by 3.2% each year, the more tension and bloodshed the overspill will cause, as will almost certainly happen on the West Bank over the next  few years. A further complication is that the international bodies of the UN and the EU do not want to be seen as supporting Hamas, the Sunni Islamist political party regarded as a terrorist organisation, who in all likelihood would create an Islamic Muslim Brotherhood state if they gained the appropriating land – even if their current ‘plight’ is a political one. See, it’s hard to even know which terminology to use.

I believe this last issue is a problem shared by many commentators who cannot bring themselves to condemn the Zionist occupation of Israel against a militant Islamist regime, the likes of whom are damaging the prospect of cultural peace and progression in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, often forgetting the poor (literally) Palestinian citizens in the process. In these matters Israel is clearly not the liberal peaceful, terrorist-fighting secure state it claims to be, shown by its obsession to retain the Holy Land of Jerusalem as pure from the Arabs and often use ancient history to justify their occupation (evidence which is, anyway, inconclusive as far as archaeology is concerned. This is testified through my sister’s own experiences in Israel and this senior Israeli archaeologist: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/2705-senior-israeli-archaeologist-casts-doubt-on-jewish-heritage-of-jerusalem). Far from a liberal agenda, Israel always conscripts its teenagers to fight for the Army in constant preparation.

Another furry aspect surrounding this battle and the Jewish Question at large, is the ethnic versus religious debate, which is why I suspect observers are so hesitant to condemn the Zionist Jews (if they don’t). Unlike Islam which claims to be universal (and Hamas would probably like to see Islamism in place right across from the ‘Jordan to the Mediterranean’[1]), Judaism is for a place and a people. We need to be sure this is a political quarrel and not just a religious one and meanwhile condemn the abhorrent idea of a state designed for only one ethnicity and religion based on Biblical folk tales, which date back thousands of years.

Again, one can’t over-emphasize that it is the citizens who suffer eternally in this despicable conflict, with Sky News claiming that over 20 Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday, with 3 Israeli deaths.  The reckless retaliation of Hamas to the initial Israeli attack a few days ago is certainly going to further harm the citizens of Gaza, whilst underground bunks are being prepared in Tel Aviv (a city which is very culturally developed).  These problems which I’ve outlined detail partly why this issue is so contentious; the war within the war in Gaza, the citizens of which are constantly punished and degraded at ‘home’ and in ‘Jewish’ territory – read Chomsky’s recent account[1] – the confusion over the Zionist conquest, who started the fight this time round, who is supplying all of the weapons, etc. It is a desperate situation which may require a desperate solution.  As someone I follow on WordPress stated a week before the latest outburst, ‘The violence between both parties has become so cyclical it shows no sign of stopping unless there is a radical change in dialogue between them’ (http://ozkaterji.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/94/).

I can’t profess to say much more on this news because I feel as though I don’t know anything like enough about it, nor do I have friends or any colleagues in Israel or Gaza to provide insight. Hopefully the communities keep going. I am tempted to quote former British PM David Lloyd George on the First World War, that ‘If people really knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow’.  As we continue to search for a solution which evidently won’t be a two-state one, the dark smoke clouds will also continue to obscure the horizon in this small part of the middle-east. Symbolic, or what?




The question ‘can philosophers make a difference in the world?’ is overbearing in its demand for a simple or common empirical explanation. In truth, the question should be rephrased as whether ‘thoughts’ can make a difference and as anyone could tell you, they surely do to an unquantifiable extent, particularly when actions are determined by these thoughts. One such zeitgeist in social philosophy was personified through Bertrand Russell in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, who led marches with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to Trafalgar Square and personally sent telegrams to President John F. Kennedy and senior Soviet Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev, warning them of the potential domino effect a full scale confrontation between Cuba and the USA would have worldwide. The ‘anti-nuclear war’ stance was finally accepted as the best condition by the parties concerned after a two week standoff, achieving victory for Lord Russell’s political premise and ending the first serious nuclear incident since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

A generation on and fifty years of globalization later, we are faced with a new global predicament. The advancement of technology has rendered the rarefied cable communication via telegram redundant, making the Russell’s of the world significantly quieter in an electronic media frenzy of Twitter, instant messaging and information uploading. But these transformations have also undoubtedly helped increase the rate of production and trade, including in the energy, arms and weapons department. Long term, nations will have to work together for the slightly daunting prospect of combating climate change (regardless of its source), but in the short term we must work on the nuclear question which has almost come full circle, with the increasing threats of war between the US and Iran and Israel and Iran. The idea that the dark armies of theocracy are constructing such a monstrous threat whilst we are asleep almost permeates our deep soul, if we can profess to have such a thing, and it’s hard to not feel lost in a wave of helplessness or passivity.

What can be done? It seems we need more signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – something which removes us (The West) from the objective standpoint some like to take who accuse the entire world of being a sort of moral level playing field – and perhaps a louder throat-clearing from the United Nations. But then we come down to that old conundrum: can we fight aggression with aggression? Putting this aside for one moment, it seems there are some things which can be achieved to help prevent or slow down the possibility of a large scale disaster. Australia, who have one of the world’s largest natural sources of uranium (according to John Pilger a couple of weeks ago[1]), a crucial ingredient in the development of nuclear weapons, has just done a trade deal with India (perhaps to help boost their economy which suffered a great setback in the midst of a power crisis last year) to sell them Uranium, clearly ignoring the fact that they are non-signatories of the NPT. Neither is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, a country already harbouring large Taliban groups; the mind boggles at what Australia is playing at, or with as this case may be.

If Pakistan becomes aggressively involved with India, it seems likely that Iran and Lebanon could follow suit and trigger a nuclear arms race which would make Cuba seem like a measly thumb war, compared to the full scale arm wrestle of international nuclear conflict. The potential collision between the messianic and apocalyptic religiosity of these Islamic states and the nuclear fissions is probably the most alarming aspect and something which separates our times from the last. The Red Army had a communist agenda which was defeated in part, in Asia and the Middle-East by the forces later to become Islamic republics; I remember reading somewhere that Osama Bin Laden claimed that the hard part of their struggle was ‘defeating the red army’ and that conquering the USA would be something akin to a walk in the park. The conflict between Western Democracy and Islamist dictatorship is an ideological one fuelled by religious convictions which are universally known to be deadly strong. This is not just about the political defeat of capitalism but the implication of the caliphate and they are almost complete with nuclear threat on their side.

Literary tradition has long had it that there is some connection with writing and the nuclear issue. The first to write perhaps influentially on the subject was, predictably George Orwell who penned You and the atom bomb in 1945[1], and who spoke of ‘how likely we all are to be blown to pieces by it within the next five years’. Perhaps the Russell’s and Orwell’s and other humanists need to speak up in the modern age to address the issue which will affect us all in the coming years. With Barack Obama as president for the next four years (to address my last piece!), the issue should hopefully be played out gently on the world stage, but the actions and reactions of the White House seem never far from escalating. We’re all keeping cool for the time being, and this is the best we can hope for to live day by day.


There is one depressing proclamation in answer to this question which is tempting to subscribe to; it was crushed under the merciless wheel of capitalism. Looking back, we can see that 2011 was a considerable turning point in international politics. Social movements seemed set to change the World. The Arab Spring might have been the biggest influence and catalyst for ‘Occupy’, but of course the two are fundamentally different in more ways we might know.

Unlike the Arab Spring the Occupy Movement met a rather demeaning response of apathy. The sigh of cynicism from the observers was heard almost in unison with the shouts on the ground. The extreme violence which met protestors in Libya, Syria, Egypt and many more, certainly validated their concerns, tragically in real time, with pressure mounting to a greater extent every day (than any uprising in the West), largely coming from the international community; in the modern age they are unable to ignore it.  Occupy is an interesting attempt to defy the outcomes of capitalism but a comparison cannot be made with sincerity to give respect and due justice to the cause across the Arab World.

Emotionally fuelled by YouTube videos of celebrities charging through the streets of New York (Mike Myers, Sean Lennon, who has inherited a life of total luxury in the Dakota Building overlooking Central Park), protestors yelled ‘we are the 99%’ to the blindingly indifferent slouching in their offices in Cities across the Western Hemisphere. It felt like a rather half-hearted delayed response to ‘hero’ of the movement, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), and one can’t help wonder if any of them would be willing to join the marches of their Arab brothers and sisters across the Middle East as well.

The unique and confounding aspect of this happening in America is precisely that fact. The American economic and governmental system is based on capitalism (and always to an extent has worked on a model of the free market in accordance with aims of the liberal Founding Fathers – however skewed this may feel now) and the steady pursuit of wealth and superficial democracy is the environment no American alive hasn’t grown up in or enjoyed. Take this in contrast with say, Portugal or Turkey and the political turbulence they have witnessed in the last Century; the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo only ended in 1974 with a relatively peaceful revolution in Portugal, for example.   The events are surprising and none the less encouraging in this respect and illustrate an interesting generational difference (the same was true in London for Occupy and the student fee’s protest there the year before). It shows there exists a youth that want the same Western privileges and excesses as the post-depression, post-war teenagers had but without the moral weight of guilt. Revolutions are born out of disenfranchised youth. This is when the situation feels slightly idealised (and maybe will have always been the case).

The main question from the media and indeed surrounding any analysis of occupy revealed in the tone of discourse on the subject, is whether it is a legitimate grievance…six months of stay since September would show indicate that it is surely a genuine one. Dyed in the wool capitalists dismissed the protestors as spoiled hippies who were wasting their time, an understandable ploy (‘patting on the head’ as I like to call it) to condescend the youthful spirit of the movement. Wikipedia at least tells me that ‘In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%’[1]. It finally felt that the Country, as well as many others, was finally awaking to the reality of greed and may want to pursue policies of universal healthcare, or fair taxes for the rich, for example. The biggest threat to the success and legitimacy of a movement like this was surely for it to be forgotten, to turn stale.

It feels that something about the Occupy Protest lacked a certain sense of intellectual honesty and integrity.  Maybe it all came about around 20 years too early; the impact of climate change, nuclear proliferation and the rise of other global powers, and probably different economic and political systems, may very well make such protests about the fundamental behaviour of authority commonplace over the next few decades. Although it might be because the sensationalism has worn off (which ought to be half the aim of the movement for publicity), occupy seems to have fizzled out into nothing much to an air of disappointment. Because it is the first of its kind on a wide scale basis, there was and is no predictability around it and meanwhile the common cause of grievance is always just under the surface, if not in the US itself, certainly outside it.

One thing the movement did do was confirm suspicions of the foul prejudice and heavy-handedness of the Police across the US.  Video footage of this occurring is a good thing, anywhere. The muted official reaction (Obama spoke vaguely in support of the protestors, although criticised them for ‘demonizing’ the financial sector) says it all essentially; good effort, but you’re not powerful enough yet. I hope this commentary doesn’t sound too snidely. It is a simple truth that the Arab Spring is the far more important global social event of last year and defying evil theocratic oppression is always going to be a bigger deal than the spectacle of ‘Occupy’.

We witnessed the latest episode in the struggle for the rights of medical cannabis users in the ever-complex land of the United States last week, as Federal agents raided the Oaksterdam University, a marijuana trade school and a nearby cannabis dispensary, both primarily operated by Richard Lee, medical marijuana activist.

The institution was established in 2007 in the Oaksterdam district in Oakland, California (one of 16 US states where cannabis is legal at State level) by Richard Lee, to ‘provide students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry’[1]. The main objective and practice of the University is to spread information on training in the business of cannabis and through this, promote the legitimization of the Cannabis industry in California, modelling itself on the cannabis trade schools in The Netherlands, such as the Cannabis College in Amsterdam.  The institution, along with the nearby Oaksterdam Museum (who all pay millions of dollars in taxes annually) was raided Monday morning by the DEA, IRS and US Marshals Service, who seized documents and rubbish bags with unspecified content.  Small protests followed and shortly evaporated, but the future of the establishment and the Oaksterdam district in general, remains ambiguous.

This incident is not isolated; according to Americans for Safe Access (a medical-marijuana based organisation) there have been over 170 raids since 2009 across the US[1] – that’s hundreds of thousands of patients affected – whilst Proposition 19 was marginally defeated two years ago, which would’ve allowed Government regulation of legal cannabis, with imposed fees and taxes. As if these recent events weren’t painful enough, last week the state of Arizona signed into law a bill which will ban medical marijuana from being used on college’s and university campuses (including of course all methods of consumption), likely to cause social stigmatization in these important social arenas.

The incident has raised concerns for the medical-marijuana community in California, particularly the Harborside Health Center, a regulated dispensary also based in Oakland, which also happens to be the largest in the World. Harborside has had various threats from the IRS over the last two years regarding its business conduct, documented in ‘Weed Wars’, a program broadcast on the Discovery Channel. Assessing the situation from afar it seems noticeable that the authorities chose to attack the university (instead of just a dispensary) – perhaps because of their free licence to spread information on private production of cannabis and profiteering as a business, rather than just selling and distributing the drug. To try and determine the objectives of the authorities and federal agents who organised the raid, their concern on this front seems more understandable; the desire to exercise their power and eliminate personal usage whilst discrediting the facts and existing information.

The contempt of the agents and the federal arm by who they are employed is made plain by the fact that they give no warning when executing these hijacks, as well as the unnecessarily large police presence, when there is no hint of violence erupting (one video of the protestors on YouTube shows dozens of officers surrounding the few peaceful individuals). I think this provocative action indicates that the intention is destruction or at the very least, debilitation; over this there can be no quarrel. As Steve DeAngelo of the Harborside Health Center pointed out last year, “Federal prosecutors are not trying to clean up the regulated medical cannabis industry; they are trying to destroy it”[1] .

It is also too easy to notice the awkward and rather insensitive timing of the bust – the university was raided the same morning as the Oikos University Shooting also in Oakland. One hopes it is not too flippant to point out the absurdity in the fact that US Marshalls were raiding a peaceful medical school and dispensary at a time when they should have been placed to deal with what was the deadliest outburst of gun violence since Virginia Tech in 2007.

Furthermore, one of the most disappointing aspects of the whole affair is the unwelcome fact that the increasing pressure of action against the medical cannabis schools and dispensaries is in direct conflict with the statements made in the 2008 Presidential elections by the Obama Administration about medical marijuana. Four years ago, when asked on the priorities of the Government regarding this issue, Barack Obama said “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue”[1].  Acknowledging there is no fair game in the world of politics, this spectacular U-turn aside to everything else, rather undermines this government’s efforts to reduce unemployment and make any amendments to the healthcare system.

The damage done to the brand in this particular instance may not be of much significance; the Oaksterdam University has stated that it will re-open immediately. But it drives home the very real message that cannabis is still illegal in the USA, and its governmental approval will not be gained through the guise of a taxable business, however much this ought to be rewarded in a capitalist society. It seems therefore that the war on drugs is far from reaching an end and the absurd contradiction between Federal and State law is still causing problems for patients and businesses alike.

There needs to be a change in the zeitgeist for the greater community of California and patients all across the US – to speak out against the ultimate injustice of the discrimination which medical cannabis user’s face – and finally get rid of the incompetence. Meanwhile, California can only keep on dreaming…


I was shocked when I learnt recently that apartheid in South Africa was only officially abolished a few years after I was born, in 1994. In my ignorance I believed it was something which had faded away no later than the 1980’s, with Nelson Mandela emerging as the figurehead of a reformed South Africa a decade or so after. Perhaps this impression was generated (understandably) because of the hushed tones it has been spoken of in the time since, like some barbaric artefact of the past belonging to the previous generations.  But can a system like apartheid ever ‘belong’ – and are the stories really that distant?

The two fundamental groups out of which the racial segregation evolved in South Africa are still present; the white Afrikaner’s (with Dutch, French and German heritage) and the black African natives. With this segregation between whites and blacks ever present from the Dutch and British colonisation of the Country, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 officially changed the status of black slaves as ‘free’. Meanwhile, laws of institutional separation continued to be developed throughout the early 20th Century leading to the adoption of apartheid in 1948, when the National Party took hold. It could then be said that the fundamental reason or ‘problem’ which lead to the situation is still present (as the two races are present) but it is the attitude which changed (as well as international pressure, internal revolts and important figures such as Nelson Mandela).  In some communities though the attitudes haven’t changed (maybe for reasons too deep-seated to discuss candidly here) and the sins of their fathers have been transposed onto the sons.

The Kommando Korps, based in various locations in South Africa, is a survival camp which according to their Facebook page has the ‘ultimate goal that the fellow members of the local commando’s mutually protect each other’[1]. In at least all internet descriptions of the camp, an emphasis is placed on ‘protecting their own people’; a racist implication may not yet register.  But the Kommando Korps believe a racial apocalypse is imminent and train their disaffected youth in accordance.  Witness reports tell stories of apartheid-era uniforms, the old national anthem ringing in disgust of a rainbow nation… “The training has taught me that you should hate black people, they kill everyone who crosses their path”[2], said one boy in an interview. One wonders how far the termites have dug.

I first read about the Kommando Korps in an edition of the Sunday Times Magazine (Feb edition I think), with a photograph shown of a blond haired, blue eyed Afrikaner teenager sternly pointing a pistol at the back of another’s head.  As a blunt image, it invokes a sense of guerrilla warfare, with the deserted field in background. The violent association is immediately made plain but I was slightly shocked to discover that the camp is 100% unofficial, like some secret army training for non-existent warfare. Activities undertaken include army drills, 4am runs, weaponry training and engagement of physical combat – for boys aged 13 upwards. It is a relatively small group, training no more than 1500 in the last decade but one which has received revised attention in recent months.

Can an analogy be drawn between the likes of the American Ku Klux Klan or other white supremacist groups and the Kommando Korps? Perhaps, in terms of the breeding and thinking, but the Kommando Korps don’t seem as interested in spreading any ‘shock’ message (although ‘shocked’ might be the reaction of many outsiders – not so much at racism, but rather at the seemingly provocative, paranoid agenda of the group – considering the sensitive recent history of apartheid). The type of organisation which the Kommando Korps belongs to is much more combative in style; they are ready to use their fists and guns than just words. Their objective of defense and their prediction of the future are set down as matter of fact in this violent group, which recalls the format of Scouts or Guides and for this reason may be tempting for pushy parents when considering their kid’s social circles. There would be of course other motivations…a sort of ‘straight’ camp perhaps for some teenagers that way inclined or to discipline the badly behaved. Maybe there are just racist parents who want their offspring to inherit this characteristic and to defend it in blood. However, the overlying connotation of the Kommando Korps is fairly clear – get em’ while they’re young.